Seniors are facing their final year of high school in quarantine

Class of 2021 hopes to return to campus and avoid the experiences of last year’s seniors

The graduating Class of 2021 has been put in a unique situation to say the least.

Seniors at Cal High, and around the country, have been forced to contend with not only college applications and their last year in high school, but also a global pandemic.

COVID-19 has turned this final year for many seniors upside down, and everyone is responding to the change in different ways.

Online schooling in particular is a frequently discussed issue, as many have called into question its effectiveness as a stand-in for in-person learning.

“I just really miss going back to in-person learning where you can engage with your peers and communicate with your teachers,” senior class president Amanda Le said.

Senior year is also a time during which many seniors use their free classes to explore their academic interests, which is much more challenging when done through a screen. Some students have also struggled to feel engaged.

“I feel like during online classes, it’s very easy to get distracted or simply not go,” senior Kelly Kyutoku said.

Alongside school itself, the process of college applications is one of the most significant parts of senior year. Many students who previously felt confident in their college plans are now considering other options, such as community college.

“Why pay all that tuition if I’m not even going to board there next year?” senior Shinika Balasundar said.

The summer between junior and senior year is a popular time to visit colleges and plan for the future. Quarantine made that all but impossible. While many students have looked at colleges online and participated in virtual tours, many still feel that they are going into the process blind.

Some seniors have felt that because of online schooling, they have yet to receive adequate instruction as to how to move forward with their applications. College applications are, without a doubt, a challenge, and the lack of in-person support only contributes to this challenge.

“I haven’t been able to get in touch with my counselors for college applications,” senior Rose Shah said.

Cal’s counselors have provided several resources such as the Your 2021 Senior Survival Guide on Cal’s counseling website under the college planning tab. Counselors are also offering live one-on-one meetings on Google Meet in order to aid graduating seniors in the college application process. Counselors also sent an email to students this week that includes a five-minute tutorial explaining how to  complete the UC application.

COVID-19 has also affected seniors outside of school. Many club leaders are struggling to adapt their activities to an online setting. Several other extracurricular activities, such as sports, have been postponed until at least December, leaving many senior student-athletes frustrated that their opportunity to participate in varsity sports one final time could be jeopardized.

“It’s going to be hard on our current 2021 class who are facing not getting an actual season,” senior softball player Riley Stiner said.

Student-athletes were recently allowed to begin participating in small “camps” of no more than 12 students working with one coach. All fall sports were postponed and are now part of the winter or spring sports seasons.

Jobs have also been affected, and many seniors have been forced to make the choice between continuing to work and staying home. Some jobs and internships have managed to make the switch to an online format, allowing students to continue to work from their own homes.

“COVID definitely impacted my job experience, I used to be able to go to work weekly and be in person,” Balasundar said. “Now that it is remote, I am only able to go to work for need-based causes and mostly spend the time at home working.”

But many seniors have not been so lucky and are unable to receive the vital experience that a high school job can provide.

With the future of the school year still in question, many seniors have been left wondering what will be done for many traditional activities, such Senior Ball and graduation. Many seniors feel particularly worried about in-person graduation ceremonies being cancelled for the second straight year. The Class of 2020 was the first to experience a virtual graduation.

“I hope we get to be in person for some extent and have graduation in person,” said Principal Megan Keefer, who is unsure what will happen with graduation in May. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I honestly have no idea.”

Seniors this year are going through a process that nobody has gone through before, and are being forced to deal with problems exclusive to the graduating class of 2021.

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