The upcoming fall semester signals a more-normal experience as colleges turn campus life back on, and for students, as they return to in-person learning.
But, over the last year, the pandemic reshaped many people’s college paths. Where they’re picking up now, as they head into the fall of 2021, isn’t necessarily where they once thought they’d be.
Last year, some students decided to defer college, disrupting the usual routine for many students after high school. This year, students didn’t defer college, but the impacts of the pandemic has shaped their college choices.
For Katia Del Toro, it means staying closer to home. For her sister, Karia, it means catching back up after a tough year in college. For Kayla Celaya, it means considering her safety.
Katia, a recent graduate of Denver’s John F. Kennedy High School, decided to go to Regis University instead of a school farther away. That way, if the pandemic worsened, she wouldn’t have to move far to start remote learning.
Plus, the school communicated with her often about how they were keeping students safe. She said they erased any thoughts of deferring college. Katia also didn’t want to delay her education.
“I want to go into the medical field, so I’m trying to push through,” she said. “I don’t want to extend the time it takes to get an education.”
Meanwhile, Karia, who attends Colorado State University, said she failed a class last year and weighed her options about taking time off.
Karia, an engineering major, said she struggled in other classes due to online learning. Some of her classes used pre-recorded lectures while others were live. She didn’t feel like she could easily get help with homework and wasn’t learning enough.
“But I learned some things are out of your control and you can’t beat yourself up about it,” she said.
And Kayla Celaya, a recent Martin Luther King Early College graduate, said one of her top priorities was her own health and safety. She didn’t want to stray far from home so she chose Colorado State University instead of the University of Oklahoma.
The proximity to a support system feels like a safer option and will allow her to thrive, she said. The last year has also brought her closer to her family.
“I don’t think I had ever sat down and told my parents what I wanted to do with my life until the pandemic,” Celaya said. “I feel like now I’m more prepared and more confident going into college and I know that people are backing me.”