This year has been crazy. As we all attempt to navigate the fall semester, students are finding this is not what we expected our educational experience to be. And it's not necessarily a bad thing—it's just...different. There are many of you in high school and college that are doing 100% of your classes online. Although academics takes precedence, there’s a social component that is a vital part of college life, and with this piece missing, things just aren’t the same.
Whether you’re in high school, experiencing college for the first time, or are already an upperclassman, you can rest assured that our universities’ governing bodies have our best interest at heart. If it comes down to an online collegiate experience to remain safe and healthy, so be it—it’s a temporary inconvenience that will ultimately serve the greater good. But while we’re stuck in this situation, here’s some advice for staying informed, keeping up in school, looking to the future, and more.
Protocols for staying informed
Tracking cases and secondary exposure to COVID-19 on college campuses is a mandatory yet difficult task. Symptoms can range from entirely absent to vague to life threatening. All open campuses have procedures in place, with the basics of mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing as the primary methods of prevention. So far, cases have been under control on my campus, and we haven't had any mass breakouts of the virus.
Part of the reason some schools have been so successful in keeping their numbers low is because of the overall dedication of the students and staff to following these protocols. If you’re on an open campus still, do your part to keep up these efforts as we move into whatever the next new stage of COVID-19 may be. Teachers are doing a fantastic job of keeping our classes safe. My professors adhere to strict COVID-19 protocols, meaning they have students maintain social distance, keep their class sizes small, and make sure students are sanitizing surfaces before and after each class. Teachers with larger numbers of students in their classes are also offering hybrid solutions to lower the risk of exposure.
At Oklahoma City University, we receive weekly email updates on the school's alert level, the county's alert level, and the number of active cases we have on campus. If we've been in indirect contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19, other emails remind us to track our health and notify officials if we feel unwell. If we’ve come in direct contact with someone who tested positive, we’re required to get tested immediately and self-quarantine until we receive our results. If you’re not already receiving emails or communications such as these from your school, reach out to seek information from them and stay as informed as possible.
Accepting online academics as the new normal for now
Online classes can be hard, and school can become trying when holiday breaks are eliminated from the campus calendar to account for a shortened semester time frame. Everything keeps piling up, and many students are feeling the burnout of what feels like a never-ending semester. But there’s an upside: Many schools are offering tuition and housing assistance along with other incentives to keep students driven, inspired, and enrolled. Countless faculty members are providing extended office hours to account for the strain that online learning can put on someone's understanding of their coursework. While these gestures may seem obvious, it becomes a collaborative effort, so make sure you’re giving as much as your school is giving back to you and work hard in the classes that you’re paying for. A college degree is the prize we seek at the end of our journeys, and if we keep working together—whether from home or on campus—we can all be successful.
Living in a bubble
I didn't realize until now how many small things I took for granted before the pandemic. As we all desire for the life we lived pre-COVID-19, everything feels overwhelmingly different now. The human need for social interaction is real. I miss giving my friends hugs, going to their houses, and dog-piling on the couch to watch a bad movie. I miss seeing people's smiles and seeing their noses scrunch up when they laugh. I also miss a college experience where the only thing we had to worry about was the midterm that we were woefully unprepared for. Colleges are still going, but it's nowhere near the experience we had before. Don’t let the feeling of isolation let you forget all the creative ways we interacted with each other virtually earlier this year—and can still continue to do. This pandemic has come with many highs and lows, but making the most of whatever phase we’re in is the most important thing.
Thoughts for the future
Part of me wishes I had taken a semester off, but the other part of me knows that this pandemic isn't going away anytime soon—as I’m sure everyone else is thinking too. If you’re a college freshman, hang in there. It will get better! You’ve worked hard to make it to college, and college life is different for everyone, even without a pandemic. You’ll find your current situation can work to your advantage if you seek outlets and opportunities that are within your reach. Since everyone will have an extended winter break this year, pick up an extra class if your school offers it. This will free up some hours in your spring semester to take a general education class that interests you but may not necessarily lie within your major. Despite your long-term degree goals, whatever academic adversity you may currently be facing is temporary. Expanding your knowledge will only serve in your favor in the long run.
And if you’re a high school senior, don’t lose hope. Take the SAT or ACT (or take it again if you already have) if you have the opportunity to—even though it may not be required for admission next fall—and keep your GPA at a 3.0 or above, even though it may seem futile. Colleges will still require you to submit your final end-of-the-year transcripts. Those who persevere will not only be rewarded with the recognition of a job well done but will also likely be awarded with academic scholarship money.
Related: COVID-19: How to Stay Productive
Although students may feel shortchanged with things as they are right now, nothing lasts forever. I’m hopeful this will all be behind us before we know it. Humans adapt and overcome, and this situation we’re sharing is just another test we need to pass.
For more advice and information you need during the pandemic, check out our COVID-19 student resources page.