OPINION: A bittersweet welcome to college


Abbie Russman

We have to make the most of what we have when it comes to the college experience. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

For many, 2020 has been full of unfulfilled expectations and unanticipated events.

For the new class of 2024, this year produced many obstacles that required adjustments and reevaluations. After having the last semester of their senior year cut short, these first-year students have had to readjust their expectations of college due to an influx of online classes and an efflux of typical first-year collegiate events.

For me, the biggest adjustment was preparing to have all my classes online after I had tried to sign up for all in-person classes. The first week of school did not feel like college right away; it felt more like an extension of the last quarter of my senior year. Having every class online was a sad way to start college, especially since I had been anticipating this year for so long.

Now, however, as I adjust to a new schedule in a new place, I am becoming more and more aware that this is my college experience– albeit a little bit scary– and it is my responsibility to make the most of it.

I have been told to reach out to professors with questions, not to hesitate to ask for help and to get involved. Fortunately, my professors have been prompt and kind in their responses. Many organizations are still outreaching to first-year students to get involved and I am not afraid of reaching out for help.

Typical expectations included meeting new people through classes, getting a feel for campus and joining various clubs. Personally, I had high hopes of immediately clicking with people whom I met through classes and forming life-long friendships.

“Before the pandemic, I planned to prepare for college by getting ready to move in to on-campus housing, have my classes in person, and meet lots of new friends in my classes,” first-year student Claire Schweikert said.

Fortunately, by the start of the pandemic, most high school seniors had their basic college plans mapped out.

“Before the pandemic, I knew that I would attend UNO and stay in the dorms,” first-year student Luke Schawang said.

Unfortunately, those basic college plans were some of the only plans that remained constant while so many other things, like location of classes and campus events, changed. Some of these students were able to come to terms with these changes.

First-year student Mary Kate May said, “My plans changed by having to come to terms with the fact that I would no longer be able to have a normal college experience or go to class.”

Many students had to re-plan what their schedule would look like.

“I expected to have a more set-in-stone schedule, but now I can work at my own pace,” May said. “However, this will force me to work on my time management skills so I don’t procrastinate.”

Many plans to get involved through activities such as intramural sports, though those were shut down due to COVID. There is still optimism for the future among students.

“I wanted to join an intramural sports team because that sounds like fun,” Schawang said. “I won’t be able to attend events like I was planning, but hopefully that will end soon.”

This year will continue to be one of unexpected turns and adjustments, but it is our responsibility to do what we can to make it a positive experience and continue to safely live life to the fullest.