Class of 2021: College Freshmen Share Tips on Navigating Campus Life

Class of 2021: College Freshmen Share Tips on Navigating Campus Life

Photo: FatCamera/Getty Images

This is the second installment of a two-part series on graduating high school seniors.

Following an unusual first semester of college, freshmen have mastered socially distanced orientations, Zoom classes and making friends in the midst of a pandemic. 

Many first-year students are advising the next incoming class to use social media as a tool to get through another potential pandemic semester. 

“I reached out on social media a lot, and I met somebody, before going to school, that was going to my school. Through her, I was able to network with a lot of people and make new friends,” said Ethan Clay, a Chicago native and freshman at Indiana University. 

Photo courtesy of Ethan Clay

Clay said that while students were required to participate in mitigation testing each week, he still enjoyed his first year of college on campus.

“I never really had issues with online classes, sometimes it was difficult to pay attention because you’re just in your room and you’re not physically there, which can be kind of difficult at times but you get used to it,” Clay said. “The hybrid learning was pretty interesting because it was the only time we actually went to a designated room for a class, but the experience was pretty straightforward.” 

Building friendships in college during a pandemic is also an essential way to succeed for Corbin Graham, a Minnesota native and freshman at Iowa State University. He said it’s important incoming students make friends early on so later on down the road you won’t feel lonely in your dorm room along with virtual classes. 

Photo courtesy of Corbin Graham

“You must push yourself out of every comfort zone you have grown in high school,” Graham said. “You must do whatever is necessary to meet people because in college, connections are your greatest asset and are crucial to your success.” 

It’s still unknown what colleges may look like in the fall. It’s too early to tell whether colleges will require COVID-19 vaccines for students returning to campus, but conversations have begun. Many universities will look to guidance from local, states and federal health authorities on vaccine requirements. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in published reports that assuming the general population can begin to receive COVID-19 vaccines in late March or early April, herd immunity is possible by the end of the summer. Herd immunity is a term used to describe widespread protection from disease when the majority of a population is formally immunized.

Pilar Kelly, a Chicago native and freshman at Duke University, said she met most of her friends through class Facebook groups. Kelly spent her first semester on campus and said the only real difference with the pandemic is that she took her classes from her dorm and not the classroom.

Photo courtesy of Pilar Kelly

“Overall I would say that I had a good experience — even though I had virtual classes — just because I was still able to be on campus to meet other people, and I had my own dorm room and had a dining hall,” Kelly said. 

To incoming freshmen, she suggests familiarizing yourself with your university’s code of conduct on how many people can visit, what events are allowed and other restrictions on campus. 

“Everybody’s in the same situation of not really knowing anybody and trying to navigate the pandemic while being in college, so just remember that,” Kelly said. “I would say that things are gonna work out and it might be different because of the pandemic but it’ll be fine.”