In high school, I was a member of the Class of 2020. On March 13th, 2020 my senior year, as well as many others, were put to an abrupt end due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 17 and 18-year-olds all over were not able to enjoy what is considered the "best part" of senior year; prom, trips, graduation, etc. Almost 9 months later and this pandemic is still affecting students' lives everywhere. As a college freshman, I can probably speak for the rest of my peers when I say that this isn't how we wanted our first year of college to go.
As I'm sure you would expect, no one really wants to live on campus with people who are coming from many different places and who are all exposed to different things. Many students don't feel safe doing that, especially if they are high-risk or have family members who are high-risk.
Me personally, I am living on campus and it is very different from a normal college semester. My residence hall is only at 70% capacity and there are many different rules that we have to abide by for not only our individual health and safety but the health and safety of others.
Living on campus during these circumstances can also get very boring. A lot of campus activities are either online or not happening at all and no sports teams are practicing or anything. As a result, we are mostly in our rooms all of the time unless it's to get food or just take a walk.
Obviously, before the pandemic, 99% of classes were in person and very interactive. Now, as a result of Covid and social distancing, 99% of classes are online and fully virtual. This is extremely difficult for a lot of us students. Everyone learns in different ways and, as a result of Zoom run classes, if you are more of a kinetic or hands-on learner, you have more difficulty.
Another downside to online learning is the fact that we are practically teaching ourselves. Yes, professors do hold office hours. However, due to the fact that they are also online, it is sometimes difficult to help. Also, some college courses are completely on your own and all the professor does is post the assignments and then later grades them. This forces us as students to teach ourselves the entire lesson and then make sure we understand it enough to get a good grade on the assignments given.
Right now is midterm season. Meaning that students who are learning fully virtually have to take their exam through online applications. Some students already have a hard time focusing when doing homework on a computer and now we are expected to take an exam on a computer as well. This causes students to easily lose focus which could cause them to get a lower grade than they would get taking a physical exam.
The toll on mental health
As a result of school being fully online, we aren't getting any physical human interaction. This causes us to feel alone and increases depressive feelings. Being a freshman in college and just getting used to not living at home is hard enough. You are away from the people who you used to see everyday and you have to meet new people and adapt to new surroundings. Now, with being in your dorm room all day and having fully virtual classes, you don't really have a chance to meet new people. This causes you to constantly feel alone. This feeling of being alone could potentially spiral into loss of motivation which could cause more depressive symptoms and your mental health to decrease rapidly.
I think I speak when I say that I hope everything can go back to normal as soon as possible!