What Is It Like To Be a College Freshman During A Pandemic?

Freshman year of college can be a stressful year for those who face some of the biggest changes of their lifetime. However, during this pandemic crisis, stressors have reached another level unseen before. In order to truly understand what being a freshman in college is like this year, I interviewed two friends from high school and also summarized my own experience.

  1. 1. Dana, John Carroll University

    women with mug and laptop

    Dana is a business major at John Carroll University located in University Heights, Ohio. For the first three weeks of her semester, the University had all of the students stay home in order to come up with a COVID response and plan. After the three weeks, they assessed the situation and announced that the semester would be 100% online with no one living on campus. Dana remains optimistic, commenting, “Many people were upset, but I think this was the right decision to be the safest possible.” As far as Dana’s personal experience she explains, “It’s different, and not the best way to start college. Because everyone on campus is in the same situation as me, it has made everything a lot easier. My experience has been good, it’s hard to meet people of course. They have tried to offer things to get involved. I am in the honors program which has given me a community from the start, and joining clubs has helped as well” Socially, facilitating online relationships has been a challenge for Dana. “Attending a small university has helped”, she notes, “because the classes are small… I’ve FaceTimed a few girls, but it is very limited.” Dana is currently living at home with her two younger sisters who have also attended online school this year. She has also been able to visit with a high school friend occasionally, outside and socially distanced of course. Everyone, even John Carroll's professors, are at home, and Dana thinks they have done well to accommodate all of the changes. Being all online, Dana has to find ways to stay motivated, and one way that has helped was to change up her environment, “At first I would sit at my desk all day… going on the patio if it’s nice, or doing work in the basement, and making time to go outside every day has really helped.” The advice she would give to anyone else who is struggling during this time is to, “Keep in mind that there is an end to this, even though it doesn’t feel that way now.”

  2. 2. Kiara, Western Michigan University

    Brown and Black Wooden Chairs Inside Room

    Kiara is an acting major at Western Michigan University located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Their plan at the school was to have a mask mandate and increased sanitizing of buildings. Also limited capacity, specifically in dining halls, and a rule that no one from other dorms is allowed in yours. A few things have changed over the semester. The university has consistently sent out email reminders when cases got worse to ensure students knew the rules and continued to follow them. The biggest change was the addition of ID checks after 5 p.m., Kiara states, “after people weren’t following the guest policy they began checking IDs when returning to the dorm.” Students were also required to fill out a general health survey in order to get a “green badge” which grants access to certain buildings. Kiara got COVID about halfway through the semester and had to quarantine in the designated dorms for two weeks while recovering, she wishes that the university would’ve been better prepared, “I had a horrible experience when I got COVID, it seemed like they had the bare minimum, for one there were very few vegan options on the menu. In addition, my first quarantine dorm was filthy and I had to complain to get a new one. Overall, I wish they would’ve had better policies in place beforehand.” As far as online versus in-person, Kiara says because she is an acting major, she was lucky to have the majority in-person. She says that her online classes have been difficult, and it is easy to fall behind in them because all of the accountability is on yourself. Socially, Kiara says there is overall more effort involved in making friends this year compared to a normal year. She continues, “There are no social events to meet people, so any chance you had to casually make friends is gone. Being an acting major and in the honors college has forced me to make friends, and joining clubs has been critical.” Kiara also remarks that it has been hard to prioritize mental health, “Everyone is struggling with it, it is one of those things where you have to listen to yourself and find ways to help relieve it in any way you can.” She concludes with her advice to others, saying, “It can’t be like this forever. We just have to get through.”

  3. 3. Grace, Kent State University

    Girl covering face with book

    I am a freshman studying journalism at Kent State University. At Kent State, there have been a number of guidelines regarding the pandemic including masks required in all public areas, limited in-person classes, maximum occupancies, expanded free COVID testing, and dining take-out. During the first half of the semester, there was in-person dining at socially distant tables; however, after a countywide spike in cases, in-person dining was closed and did not reopen after that particular spike, opting for take-out only. At that same time, people living off-campus were barred from going into residence halls altogether. For the most part, I think Kent State has done a good job providing adequate guidelines to keep everyone safe; however, one time I questioned their judgment was when the football season announced that it would be starting up again, and at the same time students were still not able to dine-in at dining halls. I have been living on campus for the fall semester. For the most part, it was enjoyable, but the last several weeks were particularly hard on me. Living in a small dorm is difficult, especially spending most of that time alone, and recently the stress has built up more with another spike in cases nationally. With all of this in mind, I decided to move home for the spring semester. It was a difficult decision to make but I am confident that it will be better. I am a member of the KSU Marching Band, so I have been tested twice in preparation for attending football games. No spectators were allowed at the games, and those who did attend, the team, the cheerleaders, the dance team and the marching band, had to test negative prior. We had access to rapid tests, so they only took 15 minutes, and it was an overwhelmingly painless experience, though uncomfortable. The pandemic has impacted my social life in many ways. I fully expect that my college experience at this point in the school year would’ve been completely different had this not happened. COVID has made it really difficult to meet new people. For me, I am anxious to hang out with anyone new because I do not know them well enough to trust that they are making good choices that won’t put me in danger. One positive experience I have had is joining clubs, particularly Her Campus because we have continued to find ways to connect virtually and facilitate new relationships, maybe not to the same extent as in person, but it has made the college transition easier by getting involved. Because of having mostly online classes I have tried to keep myself in order by making daily goals as to what I should work on for school. This helps me to stay on track so that I am not overwhelmed or stressed in the future. The advice I would give to others is to know that everyone is going through a hard time right now, we are all in the same difficult situation. If we continue to do the right thing, we can make a positive difference. Keep having hope, things can and will get better.

The pandemic is not over, and we all have the responsibility to make good decisions to protect the most vulnerable. We all have sacrificed something, but we have to continue to be strong and stick it out until the end.