Whether by furthering academic and athletic careers, or simply by offering the experience of living away from home, college is an exciting prospect for almost everyone. Many college students, especially recent high school graduates, eagerly await the start of school in September.
But things are different this year.
Colleges across the United States have implemented restrictions and made extensive adjustments to their fall semesters for the safety of students and faculty. “We’re doing a hybrid model,” says Harvard first-year Kwaku Adubofor ’20. “Certain students like me are still allowed on campus and can live in dorms, but all of my classes are online.”
Yale junior Sam Turner ’18 is in a similar situation.
“All my classes are online, but there are a few other classes that are taught on campus,” Turner says. “Although I live off-campus, I’m considered ‘residential’ in the Yale community, which sets forth community guidelines we must adhere to, such as twice-weekly testing.”
Neetish Sharma ’19, who attends Stanford University, has not been as fortunate: “We’ve been told that [Stanford] will try to push for freshmen and sophomores to return to campus by the winter quarter, but as of now we’re completely online with very limited housing on campus.”
Despite these guidelines and restrictions, students are still finding ways to safely gather in-person during free time.
“[Harvard] is definitely a lot more strict on social gatherings; there’s absolutely no partying allowed. At the same time there isn’t really anywhere to go off campus,” Adubofor says. “But there’s still a good level of social interaction that allows for an enjoyable college environment. For example, students have formed small study groups that gather on the steps of certain buildings,” he adds.
Cameron Colucci ’20, who attends McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, has a very different social experience.
“Since cases in Canada have been so much lower, I’ve been able to hang out with friends on campus and in the city as long as the police don’t shut down an establishment,” Colucci says.
Police in Montreal have the ability to instantly close an establishment if they deem it unsafe.
“We also have more freedom on campus and access to resources such as the library,” Colucci says. “Some classes are also taught in-person, but mine are completely online.”
While online learning may present challenges, Fords alumni are navigating their way around them.
“Teachers are assigning more work because they think we have more free time, but they’re more accessible since everything is online now,” Adubofor states. “For example, my Calculus class has office hours every day for two hours. If I need help, I can join the meeting and someone will always be there.”
Others, such as Turner, see many benefits to online learning:
“The transition last spring was difficult, but I really think there’s a lot of advantages to a virtual curriculum. The ‘breakout rooms’ feature in Zoom can sometimes facilitate greater discussion than in-person class, it’s easier to ask questions in an online lecture than in-person, and asynchronous teaching allows students to learn at their own pace.”
“It is a lot easier to focus alone at home without all the distractions of college life,” Sharma says. “However, I believe online learning will never replace in-person learning. Online college has led to decreasing mental health for certain people, lack of academic integrity, and classes that have been forced to cancel because of the remote environment.”
“Since Stanford classes have changed to a pass/fail system, they have been a lot easier. I’ve been looking forward to remote internships and figuring out my future.”Neetish Sharma ’19
Sharma uses the extra time and energy of online college to further his interests.
“Since Stanford classes have changed to a pass/fail system, they have been a lot easier. I’ve been looking forward to remote internships and figuring out my future,” Sharma said.
Adubofor and Turner are both optimistic, particularly in regards to athletics.
“Football practice has started, and I can’t wait to start playing again, especially the Harvard-Yale game,” Adubofor says.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing squash again,” Turner says. “As of now we’re working in the weight room and going on team runs, but hopefully we’ll get back into the swing of things soon.”
Colucci is particularly eager to experience a full college experience in Quebec.
“I am happy since Canada is handling coronavirus much better than the United States,” Colucci says, “but ultimately I look forward to witnessing everything without COVID, such as Montreal nightlife and having class on campus.”