Now that society has started to return to normal, there’s been a lot of interest in how students experienced the earth-shattering changes of the pandemic, from Zoom lectures to online quizzes to hoping that you and your classmates can find a way to hang out together after your last Zoom ends. And you definitely understood your history teacher’s glitchy lecture on Reconstruction, right? But it was also a huge leap to go from remote classes back to normal, in-person classes as the pandemic eased up. For me, I had to do it in my last year of high school as a year one Chicago Scholar.
At the start of my senior year, the world was still testing the waters when it came to opening back up. All school buildings were open to students and faculty, but at any sign of COVID, they would shut down and go fully remote again. Extracurriculars were back, but they could be canceled in a heartbeat. Until second semester, we had to wear masks in the classroom. As a senior, I could never be sure that I’d have all the traditional milestones other classes enjoyed.
The hardest part was the stress of college applications. I had organized myself when preparing for college applications, but I was nowhere near ready as I thought. I had planned to meet with college admissions reps at Onsite, but had to face the reality of those meetings being virtual. This meant that I had to work especially hard on all materials I submitted. It was a demoralizing challenge to say the least. I would look at admissions reps that were willing to meet with me over Zoom, doing my best to smile and be professional while on the inside, I was freaking out because there was no one at home to help me stay calm.
Thankfully, as a year one Scholar, I had resources to help me get through these difficulties. My cohort mentors kept me motivated with my applications and didn’t interrogate me about whether any decisions were made. On top of that, Chicago Scholars offered workshops in our monthly meetings to practice Zoom etiquette and how to best get organized and feel confident when we eventually pressed that submit button.
Now that I’m in year two attending Columbia College, where normalcy has officially returned and is encouraged to students, I look back and reflect on the support I had to guide me through the challenging year. It is a bittersweet reflection, though, because I can’t help but think about the 8th grade students that transitioned into high school at the same time I was exiting it. I had that moment before the pandemic struck, and it was difficult for me. I can only hope that they had a support system similar to the one I was lucky enough to have, to remind them they aren’t alone in the stressful transition. Many students can attest to that.