A couple of weeks after quarantine started back in March, I was told that my class and I were the “lucky ones.” At first, this seemed reassuring. My class would get a graduation, and my second half of junior year would be easy. Since I have always been a recluse, being online didn’t concern me, and the idea of distance learning didn’t really sound that bad. But as quarantine dragged along and the school announced that they would be continuing distance learning for my senior year, I lost hope. But more importantly, I realized that the students of the Class of 2021 are in no way “the lucky ones.”
To an outsider, today’s seniors won the lottery. We will have a graduation, the pandemic will most likely be behind us before we go to college, and we don’t even have to submit our ACT and SAT scores. However, senior year was supposed to be the best year of high school. This was supposed to be the last year to spend with my classmates and make unforgettable memories before leaving for college. My class and I spent our first day of senior year sitting in our rooms and greeting our peers through a one by two Zoom window. Don’t get me wrong — I love the strict uniform of sweat pants and cozy socks, but slumping over my desk and staring at a computer screen for six hours was not what I had in mind for my senior year.
Many of us are preoccupied with college applications, extracurricular activities and community service. Another component of our stress is standardized tests. Although most schools have acknowledged the testing challenges and have decided to drop ACT and SAT requirements, last-minute test cancelations in California have taunted students’ test preparations.
In November of 2019, I started prepping for the March ACT. My score was improving with the many hours I spent studying. I sacrificed Saturdays for mock ACT exams at least twice a month and spent a good amount of money to work with my tutor. A week before my test, I received an email that due to safety precautions, the company canceled the ACT.
This same pattern continued from April to June as every test I prepared for was canceled last second. For those who managed to take their tests, the situation was equally as burdensome. Many students have been forced to drive to neighboring states during a global pandemic to take their tests.
Along with academic-related tension, many of my peers are experiencing high levels of anxiety. Even though California isn’t completely locked down, we all have a huge responsibility to socially distance, wear masks and limit human interaction. According to the trends of COVID-19, my age group generally experiences little to no symptoms if we are affected by the virus; however, we risk passing it on to our loved ones that are more vulnerable. The stakes are high, and knowing that we could infect our family members is terrifying.
As for the social limitations of online learning, the fast-paced trimesters make it impossible to chit chat before class, catch up on the weekend, or make some form (any form) of human connection. Nowadays, I get excited and almost nervous about being put into a breakout room. Seriously, that is sad. Quarantine has proven that no matter how advanced technology is, it will never replace or live up to real human interactions.
Although the current situation speaks for itself, I have realized, throughout the process of writing this article, that senior year is what we make of it. As the class of 2021, we should make the most of online learning. Unmute yourself, ask questions, turn your camera on, and don’t lock your pet out during a Zoom; people want to see your cat stumble across your keyboard and accidentally turn your camera off. We, the Class of 2021, are not the “lucky” class. We are a class of friendships. A class of unwavering resilience. And a class that will forever share this unique and challenging experience.