• Amba Brown

3 Challenges Rising College Freshmen Will Face From Remote Learning

Updated: Jun 16

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a worldwide impact, presenting new challenges and issues that are still being addressed. For high school seniors, those issues ranged from canceled sports seasons to missed proms to virtual graduations, and now, navigating college in a remote setting.

College is a new space and new way of life for students. It becomes a second home, introduces new activities, creates new social circles, and brings students into a new environment. Higher education quickly pivoted its classes and services online in an effort to maintain as much of the college experience as possible, but for rising college freshmen, there will be challenges to overcome.

For those heading to college for the first time, here are three challenges you will face in the remote learning space:

Getting oriented

As colleges and universities quickly moved to remote instruction this spring, they also had to determine how to deliver events like virtual open houses, campus visits, and orientations.

Depending on where you’ve chosen to attend college, orientation might require a daylong commitment, more than one visit to campus, or a multi-day stay. Orientation is a time to get students better acquainted with the services and resources offered on campus and the people with whom they will interact. Doing this remotely, with no personal interaction, will be a challenge, but not impossible.

Although you will miss the on-campus event, there are many benefits to a virtual orientation. Here are just a few:

● Flexible—Instead of having to adjust work schedules, summer vacations, or other plans to attend orientation, you benefit from the flexibility of meeting online. No commute, the comfort of your own home, and a less stringent schedule.

● Informative—You’ll have the materials you need and can later refer back to when the virtual orientation is done.

● Customizable—Many of the tools and services colleges and universities are using for virtual orientation and highly customizable and personalized. You can choose sessions, chats, modules, and workshops that work for you.

Navigating campus

Hopefully, in your college pursuit, you had the opportunity to visit the campus you chose. Even so, wandering around in a general tour doesn’t always provide the same lay of the land as when you hit the ground during the first week of classes.

It’s hard to determine how long it takes you to get from your 9 a.m. English class to your 10:15 Earth Sciences class on the other end of campus. Do you have time to grab a coffee in between? Is it better to walk or grab your bike? Where is the bookstore if you haven’t purchased what you need for your 4 p.m. course?

Sure, it’s not ideal to be off-campus when you start in the fall. But, any college that didn’t have a virtual tour already is bound to have one now. Admissions offices quickly moved their services online to reach prospective students. Take advantage of that!

Look for a virtual tour of campus that can show you the interior and exteriors of the buildings. Check out the campus maps to see how buildings are clustered. Join an interactive visit for a good reminder of the flow of campus or to meet one-on-one with a counselor or orientation leader. It’s not the same, but it will help you to feel more familiar with the campus when you get there.

Meeting new people

When you attend orientation and eventually kick off their school year, you typically are engaging with other new students, upperclassmen, student leaders, faculty, and staff. You realize that the guy in your 8 a.m. class also has your night class, and you can grab dinner together before you go. You meet people at lunch who suggest that you join their club or activity. You find your history professor takes office hours at the on-campus coffee shop and prefers that students drop by to say hi.

This year, extra effort will be made to interact in a virtual setting. Again, none of this is impossible, but it’s certainly different. Find ways to connect with others online. Create interest groups, study groups, and social groups to meet new people and start relationships. When you do get to campus, you will have a social circle and support group to lean on.

Show your professors that you are engaged by reaching out early to introduce yourself. Don’t be shy! If you have trouble figuring something out, let them know. If you’re anxious, talk through it with them. If you don’t understand something on the syllabus, bring it up. Starting that connection early will help you succeed in your first year.

Conclusion

Starting your college career is exciting and challenging without the added stress of a global pandemic! But it’s not impossible. Colleges and universities have implemented many innovative and creative resources and services to make the onboarding process easier. Take advantage of what they offer and make connections early to rise above the challenges!

Of course, these same suggestions apply if you’re going to be a high school senior in the fall - college is a short time away!


~ Written by JASON PATEL, Former Career Ambassador at the George Washington University and Founder, Transizion.