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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including the high school-to-college transition. This year’s college freshman graduated high school at the pandemic’s height and transitioned to college campuses with the coronavirus still infecting thousands.

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Because no other class of students in recent U.S. history has made such a major rights-of-passage-like transition during a global health crisis, the Defender sought the unique perspective of three University of Houston students whose entire collegiate experience has been within the confines of COVID-19.

DEFENDER: Were there things you couldn’t do in preparation for college due to the pandemic?

Emari Williams.

EMARI WILLIAMS (Lamar HS graduate): I wished I could have toured some other colleges and had the pandemic not been going on, I would’ve felt more comfortable leaving out of state. I also wish that I could’ve gone to the college corner at my high school so I could be helped in the application process. Being able to be there instead of attending virtual meetings would have really aided me.

DEFENDER: How has the pandemic impacted your living arrangements (dorm life)?

EMARI: There was a concert on campus a few weeks ago that I didn’t feel too comfortable attending because of the pandemic. Even though I’m vaccinated, I don’t feel comfortable going maskless.

ANANA: I’m personally living on campus despite the pandemic because I feel safe enough to do so. All three of my suitemates and myself included are all vaccinated, pro-mask, and taking various precautions to ensure that we don’t get COVID. In addition to this, the University of Houston has taken precautions to quarantine students who test positive for COVID-19, such as removing those students from their dorm and providing them a room to themselves for a two-week period

DEFENDER: Have your classes been impacted by the pandemic?

Anana Walker. Photo by Aswad Walker

ANANA: Yes. Three of them are online, with two asynchronous and one synchronous while the other two are in-person. However, next semester all of my classes will be in-person

DEFENDER: How has your overall transition from high school to college gone?

MARSHALL REYNOLDS: The amount of stress that college puts on me is crazy. Not to mention, there’s so much to keep up with.

EMARI: The hardest thing to adjust to is having as much free time as I do now. In high school, it felt like there was always an assignment that was due. In college, the free time I have now is astounding.

ANANA: I’ve always been adamant about getting good grades and attending my classes, so while I could skip a few classes with my newfound freedom, I don’t. Thus, I’ve had no issue adjusting to classes. For me, college is essentially high school with a lot more freedom and flexibility.

DEFENDER: What about COVID protocols?

ANANA: None of the COVID protocols bother me. They were put in place for a reason, and I have no problem abiding by them. If I have to take a wellness survey before attending a campus event to ensure my safety and the safety of the people that I encounter, then I will happily do so.

EMARI: I appreciate the masks recommendations. They’ve given me some peace of mind with going to crowded classes. Even one of my professors separates unmasked students and masked students for overall safety.

DEFENDER: Are students still “pandemic aware” or is campus back to “business-as-usual”?

EMARI: For the most part campus life is back to normal, some students wear masks but more often than not, they’re worn incorrectly or not at all, there’s also the lack of social distancing and quickly spaces can get crowded.

DEFENDER: Have your expectations of college life been met or exceeded?

EMARI: Yes. I’m having fun and working hard without being overly stressed, I definitely enjoy learning here more than at high school because of how much freedom I have with choosing courses to take.

ANANA: College life has definitely exceeded my expectations considering they weren’t high at all. I was nervous about transitioning from high school to college and only focused on the worries that I had instead of being excited for what was to come. The campus offers a ton of opportunities for you to hang out with your friends and meet new people. They also offer various food trucks on campus if you don’t want to go to any of the dining halls and a recreational center that is open almost 24/7

DEFENDER: What’s the coolest thing about college?

EMARI: The overall freedom. I get to make little everyday decisions to help myself grow as a person and as a student, which is overall, very fun

DEFENDER: What’s the one thing that you want to see improved amid your college reality that would improve your college experience?

Marshall Reynolds

EMARI: I think better COVID protocols would help improve my college experience.  It’s a little stressful going to class sometimes due to lack of masks, even when I wear one and am vaccinated, it’s incredibly unnerving.  Maybe vaccine and masks mandates, if not that, then stricter protocols on social distancing and access to be resources for students who may be sick and have to risk spreading it because of an attendance grade or fear of missing important information

ANANA: Something I would like to see from the University of Houston is more efforts dedicated towards the safety of its students. There have been a couple incidents on campus regarding security threats and the university doesn’t do a good enough job of informing its students in real time. Usually, I hear about these occurrences from my friends and my resident advisor because we don’t hear from the university until after the fact, maybe even hours after the fact

MARSHALL: One thing I want to improve upon myself in college is my time management skills because I feel that I’m always rushed, or I rush through everything. Also, I want to learn to keep track of everything I do without getting confused about anything.