Editor’s note: In a continuing series of articles, Gazette Chicago will provide an opportunity for local experts to comment at length as we offer a forum for them to weigh in on challenging issues. The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessairly reflect those of Gazette Chicago.
By Liv Brown
High school senior, 2020-21
A deadly pandemic never crossed my mind as one of the major events that could happen to a junior in high school. I always thought I should be worrying about the SAT, raising my GPA, and finding a good college that will have me. A fatal virus never made my agenda of things to experience before senior year. I knew junior year would be filled with anxiety and stress, but I never thought once that the fear for my life and the lives of my loved ones would be a contributing factor to that stress.
Many of my friends feel as though our days as young people are being stripped from us because of the lock down, and we emote especially for the class of 2020, who missed so many great and classic milestones like prom, graduation, and their last days ever as high school students. Every student has struggled in some way due to the existence of the virus, whether it be from poor connection during Zoom calls, or having required testing for colleges cancelled, or, God forbid, the actual infection of the virus.
I have yet to take the SAT, a test that used to be required for admission to almost any college or university. I prepped for the test for eight months, only to show up in the morning of the test at the testing center at 7 a.m. to learn it had been cancelled, moments before I arrived. Everyone was already in the building when they cancelled the test, so obviously the virus would have already spread. It was frustrating at first, especially because I put in so much time into preparing for the test; but I understand the problem of administering the test during the government lockdown.
My friends and I have heard mixed news about how this virus will affect our college admissions. We’ve heard that it will be easier, because there will be less applicants, especially from foreign countries, due to economic, as well as health reasons. We’ve also heard that it will be harder, because with all of the current seniors taking gap years, there could be more competition amongst the incoming class. That, and the fact that many schools are going test-optional, could mean a struggle for students with lower GPAs.
This virus might mean the end of the basic ACT and SAT standardized test. Schools like the University of California have created a five-year plan in which they will slowly weed out the ACT/SAT and possibly administer their own test.
Online learning or “e-learning” has either become every student’s biggest ally or their greatest nemesis – there is little room for debate in between the two. As for me, I found e-learning to be relatively easier than I thought it would be. Before, on an average school day, I would wake up at 7 a.m., go to school until 3 p.m., and come home for an hour before heading to dance studio until around 8:30 p.m. My regular (pre-COVID-19) life consisted of a lot of early mornings and late nights. During e-learning, I usually woke up at 10 a.m., when I had a mandatory Latin quiz waiting. Then, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., I would do any assigned work, from textbook readings to watching documentaries. It was nice to be able to leave my “classroom” without having to ask the teacher for permission, and to eat lunch whenever I wanted, rather than at the assigned time that I had been living with since freshman year.
My school handled the e-learning well, always asking us how we were doing, and checking in. It even offered some of us to switch to a pass/fail grading system where, as long as you didn’t get an F in a class, you would pass. I struggled mostly with math during e-learning. My teacher did her best to accommodate us, setting “office hours” where we could visit and ask questions. It just wasn’t the same as learning in a classroom. I couldn’t hear the questions of my peers that could help me, and it was easier for me to learn math through paper writing rather than on my iPad.
One thing that frustrated me was the two weeks in March at the beginning of the lockdown where all work was assigned but none was graded. We later learned this was to accommodate the students at public schools who couldn’t access technology to use for e-learning. However, at my school, everyone purchased an iPad going into freshman year, and we were all blessed to have a strong WiFi connection at home for us to work. Unfortunately, this was two weeks where I was stuck with lower grades than I would have liked. Not only did we miss two weeks in March, but after canceling our finals, my school then cancelled the last week of classes. This upset many of my friends who wanted more time to raise their GPAs because this was the last time we could raise them before applying to college.
That being said, being stuck at home wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be. Luckily, I had the never-ending internet to keep me busy, but I noticed that after a couple weeks I didn’t even want to touch my phone. The news terrified me. Binging Netflix shows and rewatching movies wasn’t the same. I began to spend an unhealthy amount of time walking my dog, just looking for an excuse to leave my house. I probably upcycled half of my closet, and redesigned my room at least twice a day. Quarantine definitely caused a spark in my creativity.
Lockdown changed me for the better. I have learned to not take routine for granted, as it can all be snatched from my grasp within minutes. The entire remodeling of my schedule taught me the importance of adaptability, and the importance of a positive mindset. Being stuck at home allowed me to spend more time with my family, before I leave for college next year, and I have started to realize that every moment counts.