By Lani Tunzi
After months of preparation, applications, and big decisions, my first semester of college is not shaping up as anticipated.
At the University of California – Santa Barbara, where I am to begin college this fall, undergraduates were notified in late June in a letter from UCSB Chancellor Henry Tang that instruction will mainly be virtual going into the academic year.
The university is trying to offer some face-to-face opportunities for students, even as available student housing is being limited to single and double rooms, lowering the on-campus capacity drastically. First-year students who intended to live in campus housing will be selected by lottery and financial aid estimates are being adjusted for the many not chosen. I will be staying home in Eagle Rock for the most part, taking my classes online.
All schools are adjusting to the pandemic, but not all schools are following the same procedures as the UC system. Rather, every school is taking a personalized approach based on a number of variables, including the trends in coronavirus cases per location and campus population.
For instance, many schools with smaller populations plan to open, though with some consideration for social distancing protocols within classrooms.
A friend of mine attending the New School in New York is still set to leave in August but will undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Other friends attending smaller, out-of-state, liberal arts colleges still plan to go as well, though tensions are high that plans will continue to change the closer we get to the start of term.
Not to mention that — though it is necessary in the present COVID-19 circumstances — virtual learning has obvious pitfalls. Many students find it harder to focus through the digital format, with its frequent miscellaneous technical issues and limited feedback/engagement. It’s no better for the teachers, either. As if their job isn’t hard enough, they now have to do double the work to maintain the attention of tuned-out kids and accommodate students’ needs – all through a webcam.
Though my friends and I are eager and excited for the next stage in our lives, I can’t pretend it’s not disheartening that we will not yet be “going” to college. For many, the college experience isn’t complete without dorms and roommates, lectures halls, and traditional school social events. After already having to miss some of the marquee events of our senior year, such as prom and graduation, our next foot forward is being placed in precarious waters.
Lani Tunzi, Class of 2020 at Eagle Rock High, graduated in June.
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