Over the past couple of years I have had so many people talking to me about college. They talked about how much fun it was for them, how many opportunities they had to meet new people and experience new things. A lot of them were adamant that college was the most free they had ever felt. "College is the time to find out who you want to be" my dad had said every time I asked him about it. Hearing these things, I was excited to have this great adventure. But I don't think that this is what they meant when they talked about college being a new experience for everyone.
I'm here to give a current perspective on what it's like at college. Why do I live on campus? Do I regret it? What is the point? And most importantly, is it worth it? I'll be answering those questions and many more.
Prospective students and fully virtual students asked me over the past couple months and my automatic answer is always "because it's far enough away that people I don't like won't try to visit me, but close enough that the people I do like will." As true as that answer is, that's not what going to discuss here.
There are many things we have begun to do virtually over the semester. Most of my classes are online and even some of the clubs I am involved in have become remote. As much as I understand the reasoning behind this, I am not always pleased about it. However, there are things that I have gotten to experience on campus that I would not have gotten to do otherwise.
As one of over 30 students involved in the Rowan University Newman Club, I am able to go to our Newman house every Wednesday night and meet (socially distanced and masked of course) with a group of students who are so kind, welcoming, and accepting of anyone who comes into the backyard. While religion is our main purpose, it isn't all we do. We talk to each other and share stories about our lives. We also have really good pre-prepared food and a never ending supply of laughter. Though we have a Zoom link for those who are off campus or those who can't make it in-person, it is so much better when we meet together.
On another note, I also have been very lucky to have 3 suite mates and a roommate who are so amazing. Because of the Coronavirus my room assignments got switched around an annoying number of times. I had no clue what to expect coming in and a part of me didn't want to come in at all. But then I reached out to the newest group of girls I had been assigned to. I got to know a little bit about them and they learned about me as well. We talked through Instagram and sent each other memes to try to break the ice. They seemed nice enough so I decided to go for it. I was not prepared for how great it would all turn out.
We have made the best of our situation on campus and created memories and friendships that we won't soon forget. Coming in, I was apprehensive. Now, as I prepare to spend the rest of my semester at home, I am sad that I won't get to see them as often for a while. We have done fun things like make Rice Krispy Treats and Buffalo Chicken Dip in our microwaves, and gone on adventures to find dumpster cats. Like the adults keep telling me, I am experiencing new things, and I love it, even though I know it can and will be so much better once Coronavirus has been gotten under control.
Academically, Living on campus has benefitted me as well. Because of the accommodations that I am eligible for, I am able to use the in-person testing center that Rowan has. Had I been at home, I would have a much harder accessing tests that include diagrams and pictures. But I am on campus, so I can make an appointment with the testing office and get a scribe to describe the things that I can't decipher.
Though most of my classes were online this semester, I did have the chance to attend a few in-person lectures and labs. For labs, in-person is so much better. A lab is supposed to provide hands on experience for students and explain the concepts that words and pictures can't. When I went to in-person lab, the professor was there to show and explain things to us as we went through the steps, and he could correct us in real time. Virtual labs don't allow for that and the students don't get to perform the experiments.
Of course lecture classes are much easier to teach in a virtual space. Professors can share screens and use writing tools on the platform to explain the concepts. However, it is much easier to understand the lessons in person. There are less distractions and the teacher is able to get through more content because students won't be accidentally locked out of meetings or lose the meeting codes.
Living on campus has been an eye opening time for me. As many good things as I have learned over the past couple of months, there are also some cons to the experience, starting with the money. We pay money to live on campus so that we may have the full experience of college. For some that means joining a bunch of clubs and organizations, while for others that means going to parties. Right now, all of those things are limited or completely nonexistent. So that begs the question, are we wasting our money when most of the activities are virtual now anyway?
Truthfully, the answer is not a simple one. It depends on a myriad of things like economic status, scholarship opportunity, and much more. When considering my decision for the spring, I am looking at how much money i think is worth spending on the part of the college experience that I am getting. Rowan--maybe with this in mind--reduced their tuition for the fall semester. They knew that people were considering not staying on campus or not going to college at all, so that was their incentive. This reduction is still in effect for the Spring 2021 semester. There are also new scholarship opportunities that have come of the Coronavirus and they are to help off-set the costs of college on or off campus.
It is also a question of whether you like your home life. As someone who has lived in multiple different living situations, I found that it was hard for me to leave for college. I knew that it wasn't going to be this amazing that people had been telling me about and I didn't know if I could handle that. At home, I was content and happier than I had ever been. I have friends and a wonderful family that I knew it would be easy to fall back on. Coming to college, I still have that but it's much different. It isn't as easy to make friends and I can't always talk to my family. Had Coronavirus not been a factor, these problems would still occur, but to a much lesser extent. I would be in classes with people and making friends much easier.
The hardest part of living on campus is the uncertainty. We don't know if our school will shut down and there are rumors and emails constantly that don't make it any better. We are all told to be flexible and patient, but that isn't easy. It seems like things are changing daily: classes may go back to fully virtual, no field trips, stricter indoor dinning, etc. For those planning on returning after the Thanksgiving holiday, they don't know if the school will be open.
My semester on campus is coming to a close and while there are a lot of uncertainties for the future, staying on campus was the best course of action for me. I have begun to learn how to live on my own and be responsible for myself. There is still a safety net there if I should need it, but this time is all centered on my growth and independence. I am trying to keep myself mentally and physically healthy while navigating this uncharted territory. Because I am experiencing these challenges now, the things that come of it will be all the more worth it and I will be prepared for much more.
For those making their decisions about coming to any college campus in the spring, think carefully and logically. Weigh your own list of pros and cons, find what things are most important to your health and growth, see if living on campus will give you those things. However, what ever choice you make, ensure that it is the safest option for you.