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How I’m Navigating a Completely Online Senior Year

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

This fall was supposed to be the first semester of my senior year, the beginning of my final stretch at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I was planning to make this the best final year before potentially moving out of state and starting a new chapter of my life after graduation.

But the pandemic has brought a lot of change — moving back to the suburbs and away from the city, taking online classes, and adapting to new restrictions as school starts again and we spend time in public spaces.

The news of online classes

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My best friend and I have been looking forward to this moment for years since we started college as freshmen and dreamed of graduating together. We even created a list of things we wanted to accomplish and places we wanted to visit in the city before leaving school. It was the ultimate bucket list of parties, adventures, bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and new experiences.

But we recently found out that UIC is hosting classes online, with only a few in person. Out of the seven classes that I am taking, only two will be in a classroom. After the news broke, my best friend’s roommates decided not to renew their lease. My best friend had to make a similar decision, and she will be living in the suburbs while I stay in the city. This will make it harder to complete our bucket list and make the best out of our senior year.

One of my peers has said, “The class of 2021 is going to have a way worse senior year than the class of 2020.” This is because although 2020 seniors had a virtual graduation, they still got to enjoy most of their last year in person.

How to make the best of online time

I have been doing some thinking about how I can possibly make the best out of a semester (or entire year) of online classes. How will I meet more people? How will online school affect my personal learning and growth? Will this still be a positive experience? Will it be fun? Ultimately, I realize senior year will be what I make of it.

I will still try to socialize with people through study group chats and online platforms. When it comes to my “senior year bucket list” I can still check off some of those ideas, as long as I’m following precautions. I know I don’t handle being alone well, and I will miss socializing face to face. But I will try to strengthen the connections that I have, and if possible, meet up in person when rules permit.

In terms of online classes, I have always been a paper and pencil person, so the fact that classes will be virtual worries me. I had a tough time during spring semester, because IRL classes made it so much easier to take notes, listen to professors, and engage in the environment. It also made it harder to reach out for help and tutoring. I feel like online classes will definitely impact my ability to learn and grow, but I know that I will just have to put more time into my education (which could ultimately be a good thing as well).

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Navigating tuition

How will tuition change with most classes being online? In my school’s class of 2021 Facebook group, many students have expressed how upset they are that tuition remains full price despite classes being moved online. Most argue that it is unfair to charge such a high tuition, since students will not be able to utilize campus and resources that would be normally be offered. I agree with what the majority of students are saying, that some fees could easily be deducted, and tuition dropped by some percent. This would help students a lot, especially those with lower income.

I have several peers who lost their jobs, or their family members are out of work, and have to figure out a way to pay for their education. The decrease in tuition and increase in financial help would benefit so many, especially during this time of high unemployment. One comment I saw as I was scrolling through the Facebook group said “I can’t believe our schools are screwing us over like this. It would make more sense for them to help students out NOW during this time than any other year.”

I acknowledge that it’s still August and many things can change throughout the semester. Hopefully, these changes are positive and can make more students feel satisfied and supported.

I am keeping an open mind, and I am determined to make my final year of undergrad one of the best experiences — regardless of what the circumstances might bring. I think it is important for people to be open to change, as it can bring other positive experiences and an opportunity for overcoming and growing.

Odalys Lopez is a fourth year college student at the University of Illinois at Chicago planning to double major in psychology and sociology with a minor in biological sciences. She loves exploring the city of Chicago, drinking coffee, watching movies and shows, writing, reading poetry, and listening to music. She loves being involved at school and in the community.
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