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An Untraditional Transition: Graduating High School and Starting College in a Pandemic

It’s safe to say that I never imagined my school days ending on a random day in March, not knowing it was the last day I would step into my high school. I remember on that day, March 13, 2020, I was in my last period class with my friends finishing up making the yearbook. There was an anticipated announcement from our principal saying that the school would be closed for two weeks, which was crazy to us all at the time. My friend and I didn’t understand at all how serious it all was. We were making jokes about “corona-cation” and making TikTok videos of us dancing throughout the classroom. Now, looking back at those videos, I cringe thinking about how naive we were. But I guess I’m also glad that we spent our last moments in high school not realizing how bad things would soon get. 


COVID
Photo by Edwin Hooper from Unsplash

Two weeks quickly turned into four, and as practically every high school senior watched Governor Baker’s livestream, expecting the worst but hoping for the best, the rest of our school year was cancelled. This news was devastating to us all. 

We continued our online classes until our last day of school, an extremely anticlimactic day compared to what I had envisioned my whole life. The best part of that day, though, was seeing a few of my friends for the first time in months. We met up at our high school in the parking lot with our cars parked in a social distanced circle and talked for hours. We walked around our school talking about memories we had from the past four years, and I even got bad sunburns from how long I was there. This was one of the best days I had in a really long time, finally being able to see my best friends when all I wanted to do for the past few months was see them.

Obviously, our senior cruise, cookout, prom, and other senior events were cancelled. The one thing we were all holding out hope on was to have a graduation. On June 6, 2020, we had a virtual graduation that was streamed on the local TV channel. Although this was not at all ideal, it was such a happy day for me. After months of isolation, being able to be with my family — even if it was to watch us graduate on TV from our living room — and seeing my friends after to take pictures and hang out was all I wanted. At that time though, we were still expecting an in-person graduation, but was cancelled at the last minute.


planner and computer and plant on desk
Photo by Burst from Pexels

After such a sad end to high school, I was just ready to move on and start college. Unfortunately, my freshman year of college had also been heavily impacted by the pandemic. 

This past year has been extremely hard on me, but I’ve learned so much from it. Senior year of high school and freshman year of college are supposed to be the best, most fun years of your life, and not having the full experience of either has really made me think more about what really matters. As cheesy as it sounds, because of how everything ended in high school, I’ve realized that what really matters is being with the people in my life, not the prom dresses and senior cruise pictures. After everything was cancelled, all I wanted was to see my teachers, friends, team, and everyone just one more time, and I found myself not being as upset about the cancelled events. And more than the actual graduation, I was more sad about not being able to graduate in person with my twin brother, since we’re now at different colleges. 

Of course, I also have constantly been putting everything into perspective during this time. Every single person has been impacted by the pandemic in some way. Just being healthy during a pandemic is such a blessing in itself, and I think a lot of times we are apt to believe that our situation is the worst and incomparable to others. I’ve noticed this a lot specifically between school classes in high school and college. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a senior this year in 2021, just like they can’t imagine what it was like to be a senior in 2020. 

Let’s be honest: the past year has sucked for everyone. But we should be rooting for each other, not tearing each other down, because we think that we had it worse than others.

Elizabeth Tait

U Mass Amherst '24

Elizabeth is a sophomore at UMass Amherst double majoring in psychology and sociology. She is very passionate about mental health and hopes to work in that field in the future. In her free time, she loves reading, listening to music, watching sunrises at the beach, playing tennis, and traveling.
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