The Return to College Amidst Covid-19

For many returning college students, late August and early September means moving back to campus, reuniting with long-distance friends, and gaining the independence that comes with leaving home. There’s nervousness and excitement in the air that signifies a new school year and new potential, but what do you do now when the start of the 2020 school year is unprecedented? 

With freshmen beginning their college journey online and returning students having to adjust to a completely new format, here are some tips that may help college students with adjusting to this drastically different school year and the complex emotions that are likely to accompany this transition. 

First-Year Students

Whether starting off their college experience at home or alone in a new environment, the 2020-2021 school year is going to be far from the year that first-year students were expecting. From campus life to social scenes to classroom environments, they will be the first cohort to enter college in this way. 

Making friends and establishing a sense of community can be hard enough in college under regular circumstances. Typically, roommates can be a sure set way to make a friend or two, but due to the pandemic, most dorms have been converted into singles. Joining clubs and Greek life can also produce lifelong friendships, but that process is not going to be the same this year either. It would be understandable to view these changes from the freshman year you had envisioned as overwhelming.

While the process of making friends and building your sense of community may be different and more unique than in past years, universities and campus organizations are still making it possible to be a part of campus life. Many social events and gatherings may be virtual for the time being, and it may take some time to adjust to this new format, but establishing a sense of community is of utmost importance in order to avoid potential feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

Returning Students

After having experienced the “normal” college experience, returning students — who know what the year could have been — can experience a very difficult time adjusting. New students have only heard about many of the aspects of college life that returning students have already experienced firsthand. Returning students may be tempted to expect things to be just like previous years or to hyper-focus on the differences between previous years and the current one.

For these individuals, it is important to avoid comparisons or the temptation to focus on “what could have been.” Remaining positive and seeing the good in the situation can help divert attention away from dwelling on the past. This school year might not look like those from the recent past, but the future still holds many kinds of experiences and potential for learning and growth of all kinds. The future also holds a return to more in-person college life, all within good time. 

All College Students

It is important to make the most of the situation with what is given. Participating in the online Zoom events that universities put on can help foster peer-to-peer connections while remaining safe. In addition, having a schedule and staying on top of classes can help establish an environment as close to a normal year as possible. 

It is up to the individual to attend their online classes, and getting behind can result in poor academics, mental health, and overall well-being. To avoid this downward spiral, remember to adjust to the pandemic regulations while maintaining otherwise normal behaviors. This will build good habits for the rest of the college experience while avoiding isolation and loneliness — which we are all susceptible to right now due to the current circumstances. 

If you do experience moderate to severe emotional distress, impairments in your daily functioning, or concerns for your mental health while adjusting to this new school year, it is important to seek professional help. 

California Women’s Therapy is a team of female psychologists who specialize in working virtually with young adults, parents, and teens during these challenging times. Couples counseling is also available. 

For more information, please reach out to Samantha at [email protected] or call (805)-244-5121.

This blog post was written by Samantha Tellefsen.