By Ivelisse Diaz
Covid-19 has undermined many day-to-day activities and events: in-person work, group gatherings, and concerts. One loss shared by millions of young people is that of their college experience. High school graduates are now heavily debating the question of “what choice is best”. Incoming freshmen now have to decide whether they’re going to defer, take college classes online, or go to their college campuses in-person. As an incoming college freshman myself, I decided to interview three other Bay Area teens that are in similar situations.
Samuel Getachew is a writer/poet with plans to go to Yale University in the fall of 2021.
Clyde Nichols is a fine artist who is currently studying at The Cooper Union In New York.
Lastly, Chloe Montoya is a musician,whose college plan is to take classes at home with the University of Puget Sound.
When you first heard that colleges and universities were potentially closing, what were your initial plans?
SG: My first thought was “this better not mess up my college experience”. I still wanted to live on campus. For so much of my high school experience, what was getting me through rough times was the fact that I’d get to go to college. That I’d be happy in college after working really hard.
CM: My initial plan was just to do school online, mostly because I really didn’t want to fall behind. And plus, there wasn’t really anything else for me to do.
CN: I was initially thinking about moving out and renting an apartment in New York because quarantine made me feel like I should have my own space.
What are your plans now, and how did you arrive at that decision?
CM: I just decided to do online class because I’m kind of the type of person who’s very eager to start school. I don’t necessarily want to take, like, an extra semester of college or graduate later if I don’t have to.
CN: I decided to go in-person because I really wanted to leave home, and the dorms were the easiest way to do so. Cooper Union has a really robust safety plan, and assured us that they wouldn’t send us home if things got bad. I came here to feel like I was having some kind of college experience, and to meet new people.
Do you remember what you were doing when you realized that your college’s plans were about to change drastically?
SG: Eleven days before I was supposed to move in, I was getting uneasy because everything felt so disorganized. That was the first moment when I asked myself, “am I making the right decision?”
CM:I was in the kitchen. My mom came upstairs and she was like, “oh my gosh. The coronavirus cases in Washington are getting really bad”. At that point, I realized there’s no way they’re opening back up.
CN: I was camping with my family-friends on a yearly trip when I got the email that said everything was online. I was so shocked because my school was one of the first to announce that they were going online.
Are you satisfied with this decision? Why/ why not?
SG: I would say I’m satisfied. It felt like I was picking between feelings of dread or relief- and I picked relief.
CM: I’m satisfied with the decision I made. Obviously it’s not the decision that I wanted to be making, but I can’t really imagine myself not starting school this fall. I’m also kind of glad the university is not opening because it is probably not safe.
CN: Overall, yes. I am so glad to be here. The school has been really good. But, it is so clear to me that online school is a scam. But, being here was my choice and now I’m happy I’m here.
What do you see as some benefits to your decision?
SG: The college transition is not easy, but it’s so much harder if you don’t even want to be doing it. So, that agency of deciding when I do things is nice. I think in the long run, I will be really grateful to myself for having preserved that full freshman year.
CM: I have more time at home with my parents, my dog, and a lot of my friends whose colleges aren’t opening either.
CN: The benefits are definitely having access to the school’s resources, being physically around people who are going through the same thing as me, and the connections that come from being in New York.
Are there any challenges or setbacks to your decision?
SG: I would be concerned about the fact that I have not done real school since like the first semester of my senior year. There is a part of me that’s a little bit worried that I am going to forget how to be a student.
CM: It’s hard for me to learn online. Zoom honestly kind of makes me tired, so I can’t pay attention. It’s also a lot harder for me to advocate for my needs.
CN: A challenge is definitely getting my money’s worth while paying full tuition for online classes.
What do you envision your future looking like for the next year?
SG: I want to do any kind of program that lets me live away from home for free, which I found a few of. Also, I just plan on trying to find some kind of virtual job or internship that I can do to make some kind of money and keep myself occupied and learn. Like, I’m just going to make decisions based on what makes me happy now.
CM: This year, I want to really figure out where my core interests are. What I actually want to do, because I have an idea right now, but I feel like it changes a lot. So I’m really looking forward to that. I also really want to live in an apartment, like really badly. So that’s exciting.
CN: I envision that my future is going to be filled with more exploration of the city, and more connecting with my peers.
Do you have any advice for other students deciding what they’re doing for the next year?
SG: Really consider your options. Everything that we think of as normal is blowing up at our faces right now. The sooner you let go of normalcy, the sooner you’ll be able to do what’s best for you. Trust your gut.
CM: Honestly, you need to follow what your heart says. If you have, like, the privilege to decide what you want to do, you need to do what you think you’ll love.
CN: Talk to upperclassmen, incoming freshmen, and get a lot of different perspectives. Listen to people who have experienced your specific school, and how they’ve handled online classes in the past.
So, as you can see, there is no one option in terms of fall semester plans. Although there might not be an ideal choice, there is an answer that fits best depending on your situation. For many, there is still an opportunity to choose. But, regardless of your decision, the transition to college is supposed to be a learning experience- like all things. Remember: this is a collective experience. You are not alone in your decision.