When we think of the ‘classic’ college experience we all generally imagine going to parties, attending sports events, joining clubs, and overall creating bonds of friendship that can last for life. The social aspect of the college experience is a crucial element for students who are generally going off to live on their own, in a completely new environment for the first time. For the freshmen starting college in 2020, due to COVID19 measures, this aspect has been extremely challenging.
“Most of the traditional avenues for meeting people are absent or have transitioned online.” Says Evans Schultes, a freshman at Harvard University. “which does not offer the same level of intimacy as in person.”
And Evans is not alone in feeling this way.
“I feel like I’m missing out,” shared Lewis and Clark freshman, Eeshani Thomas. “Just making friends in general [is harder] because there are so few opportunities to be social now.”
Many students explained that with classes being offered mostly online, their ability to build friendships with those who attend the same classes has been greatly impacted.
This is affecting students’ ability to learn.
“I haven’t met nearly as many people in my classes and don’t feel like I can ask peers for help/clarity. It all just feels off,” says Ellie Pierce at Northern Arizona University.
Abbey Hockin at Portland State University admitted, “I’ve only said a couple words to my fellow classmates.”
For Leah Whitman at Lane Community College, it has been even more of a struggle.
“COVID has made it nearly impossible to make friends since only one of my classes this term is synchronous, so I don’t even know the names of people in my other two classes.”
In terms of how long it took for her to make friends she said. “I moved into my apartment in July and made my first friend in early September.”
Even students who are living in the dorms are having trouble making friends.
Those who have attended a college or university know the social ease of living in a freshman dorm. If you wanted to study with people, it would be easy enough to find a group in a common space. If you heard anyone in your hall getting ready for a party, it was easy enough to join them. These freshmen have not been given this opportunity.
“I felt very isolated because of when they had me move in.” Says Ellie Pierce (Northern Arizona University). “They spread out our move in so I came to campus when school had already started online. I felt so overwhelmed when I came here that I barely left my room.”
Some colleges have tried to help by providing online social meetups, however it does not feel the same.
“It’s so much harder to connect with peers for the first time virtually rather than in person, and any attempt at finding a romantic partner is completely futile.” Says Jared Charney Cohen at University of Southern California.
For students with some face to face interaction, it is still a struggle.
“It’s hard to connect with people when you don’t know what their faces look like.” Says Jo Santucci at Whitworth University.
Limited social opportunities means smaller social spheres.
“I’m missing out on meeting a lot of people and weeding out the people who I want to be friends with. Now I have to seek out people I want to be friends with,” explained Abbey Hockin (Portland State University).
However, when asked about how COVID learning has improved their experience, students were able to provide a positive outlook.
“Remote learning has made me more accountable and proactive about communication with my profs/peers.” Says Isabel Max, a freshman at Princeton University.
“It has helped me be more independent and know how to ask for what I need,” added Eeshani Thomas (Lewis and Clark). “because covid makes it harder to get the help you need unless you ask.”
“It made me think more about how to approach classes and assignments.” Revealed Enzo Lee-DiVito from Reed College.
Ellie Pierce (Northern Arizona University) appreciates that virtual classes give her, “The ability to attend class anywhere I am.”
Jared Charney Cohen (University of Southern California) admits that it did improve the quality of at least one class. “Some exercises in my acting class translate really uniquely to the online environment, and allows us to explore performance in a way we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”
There is no denying that our nation’s current circumstances make attending undergraduate school right now less than ideal.
When excitedly applying, these students had no idea that their first year of college would end up like this. It is very clear that this freshmen class is facing unique challenges. Challenges that isolate them more than any other class ahead of them. They are fully aware of the ‘classic’ college experience they are missing out on.
However, they remain dedicated to learning.
Despite everything, these young adults are still able to stay optimistic and appreciate what they have.