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Pandemic Freshmen, Now Graduating Seniors, Reflect On Reduced College Experience

LeAnne Roberts, a graduating senior at Howard University, feels her college experience was robbed due to the pandemic-forced virtual learning. Photo courtesy of LeAnne Roberts. 

Though the national emergency on the coronavirus is ending this month, the impact of the three-year-long pandemic is still being felt by many, such as the graduating seniors who were forced to evacuate campus as freshmen due to the onset of the pandemic.

In March 2020, former president Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic to be a national emergency, prompting the closure of businesses, places of religious practices and schools, including Howard University, to suspend in-person services and resort to virtual services. College graduation is upon those who were freshmen then and some, such as LeAnne Roberts, feel robbed of the college experience.

“I was robbed. Over 50 percent of my college experience was done virtually, and that really took away my ability to feel a deep sense of community and led to depression and a lot of social anxiety,” Roberts, a journalism major, said.

In addition to the lack of community and building a social life, some expressed the psychological impacts of attending college amid the pandemic. A 2022 report from the National Library of Medicine found that the pandemic increased the number of stressors in college students’ lifestyles, leading to higher anxiety levels, depression and insomnia among college students nationwide.

 Lloyd Davis, a senior political science major, reflected on how the pandemic psychologically impacted him. 

“I didn’t get to experience a whole year of on-campus activities like homecoming and I won’t get that time back,” Davis said. “It hurt my mental health because It was difficult at first to make friends on campus, but I was able to after a few months of being back around everyone.”  

In addition to an overall decline in mental health for college students, some struggled with the realization of leaving campus as freshmen and returning as juniors. Some students can’t believe they are graduating next month. 

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“Because of the pandemic, I was only able to have one full semester on campus. That is a big part of college life and transitioning to an adult. When we came back to campus, I was a junior and had to live off-campus. I feel the pandemic left a more lasting social awareness effect on my mentality,” Lorin Palmore, a senior sports medicine major, said. 

Students also had dealt with housing issues upon returning to campus. This resulted in students signing unaffordable leases, continuing their studies online, and finishing school early. 

“I was shocked by the housing crisis. I think I have the gift of adaptability now. I learned how to make the most of the experiences I never anticipated. I’m trying to be positive, but a fractured Howard experience was hard to deal with because of so many disappointments,” Roberts said. 

Despite the lack of social opportunity, the virtual school allowed flexibility for the students’ schedules. This also made it difficult for students to retain the information they learned in these online courses. 

College students are continuing to adjust to their ‘normal’ campus lives in the years following the pandemic. Most importantly, the graduating seniors are excited to take on the next chapters of their lives.

“I am excited to start living the life that I created for myself here at Howard. This has been the most transformative year for me so far in my life, I have learned and experienced so much. From my education to navigating my relationships I want to put my lessons to use,” said Palmore. 

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The graduation ceremony is set to take place at the Main Yard on May 13. For more information regarding the event, visit commencement.howard.edu. 

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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