Zoom University 2024

Some thoughts on the upcoming Fall 2020 Semester for first-years in college.


Nate Lentz

Students spend four years of their high school careers preparing for college, as this Bronx Science student is doing in his meeting with Ms. McHugh, his Guidance counselor, to plan on the colleges to which he will apply. The thought that many colleges will be online only during the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19 is one of the many terrible outcomes of this pandemic.

At last, the day has finally come — students beaming brighter than ever in caps and gowns as the whole room commemorates their four years of high school. It’s graduation. However, for the class of 2020 in high schools across the country, they will not stride across the grand stage in front of their loved ones to receive their diploma, but instead will watch a streamlined livestream video from the safety of their own homes, due to social distancing restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

It would be an understatement to say that COVID-19 has stolen the time the seniors would have had to fully indulge in their last semester of high school: college decision day, senior trips, prom, amongst others. Our worries go beyond the last few months of high school and even the summer of 2020. This fall with college, what was supposed to be the beginning of meeting new people, achieving newfound independence, and beginning the exciting adventure into adulthood may turn into a semester spent staring at computer screens at home in quarantine.

Already, New York University (NYU), Pomona College, University of Phoenix, California State Universities and their 23 campuses, the University of California schools and their 10 campuses — Los Angeles, Berkeley, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Irvine, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Merced — have announced their plans for a remote fall 2020 semester. Other colleges such as University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, Rice University and more are planning to pursue a hybrid model for instruction, a blend of courses that incorporate both digital elements and in person classes, dependent on the curriculum. While the vast majority of colleges remain undecided at the time of this article’s publication, it would not be surprising to expect more universities to release their plans to go online given the uncertainty of the trajectory of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

However, in preparation for what will come next, students are grappling with a certain decision. “I wish they would announce whether fall classes are online or not before the May 1, 2020 decision date. I can defer my enrollment a year, and if I knew that classes would be online by May 1, I would strongly consider this option and take a gap year,” said Thomas Breen ’20. Many other Bronx Science students are similarly weighing their options. 

However, the scale leans to one side, as many students nationwide are unwilling to pay the high cost of tuition for a year of online Zoom lectures and seminars. “I know this doesn’t apply for all, but some schools won’t suffer from this because they have huge endowments. The fact that they’re firing their employees and expect us to drop $80,000 on online school is ridiculous,” said Cameron Chang ’20. Many other students share the sentiment. “It’s stupid if they make us pay normal tuition costs without actually getting to use their facilities. I’d rather have the first semester delayed than have it be online,” said Karun Ellango ’20.

Is it really possible to have an authentic college learning experience over Zoom? And if so, is it worth the same price as when classes were on campus in person?

After all, college is not just about the seminars and lessons, but also about the resources and career opportunities, the professors and research mentors, the libraries and the laboratories, and the networking connections that we make on campus. We come to college to find our passions and to grow beyond the scope of our imagination. “It’s not even a class related thing, but think of all of the first year activities that we would be missing out on. A lot of schools have dedicated traditional entrance programs (whether it is marching through the gate or orientation); the class of 2024 as a whole is losing that,” said Rizwan Kazi ’20. 

For four years, we have all imagined what it would finally be like to graduate from high school and embark on our college careers. Better yet, we have imagined what a brand new start would feel like. But rather than feel as though we have been robbed of our memories, we can use the current time during quarantine productively; we get to spend more time with our families and loved ones for a little longer. We are all so eager to become our own person, yet we hardly get the opportunity to really appreciate those who made us into who we are. And as we all endure the unpredictable, at least we are doing it together (six feet apart, of course). 

Is it really possible to have an authentic college learning experience over Zoom? And if so, is it worth the same price as when classes were on campus in person?