Students from the class of 2024 said the pandemic hindered their abilities to make friends, obtain work hours and connect with the university in their first year of college.
The class of 2024 was comprised of almost 7,800 incoming first-years for the fall 2020 semester. Of the now second-years, there were new students arriving from 44 other states, and USC welcomed its most diverse and in-state class yet.
Aspiring physician’s assistant and second-year public health student Kendall Guthrie said COVID-19 stripped her of opportunities and the 500 work hours that are a necessity for graduate school.
“Losing a year of not being able to work, and honestly this semester too, that’s basically half of my experience before I apply to school. I got no hours because no place is hiring any undergraduate students who want to go into medicine because of how crazy everything is for COVID,” Guthrie said. “So that’s kind of unfortunate.”
Guthrie said she lost valuable time when it comes to her career aspirations and professional future. In addition to those losses, she said COVID-19 had a negative social impact on many of her peers throughout their first year.
“I know people who lived in plenty of other places who came out the other end of an entire year with maybe one friend,” Guthrie said.
She said she was able to create friendships on her floor but found that so many people “did not have that same experience.”
Guthrie said she had difficulties connecting with the school and being aware of the resources available to students.
"The things they've been doing on Greene Street — I don't think we really had that last year. The only thing I really knew was kind of the career center." Guthrie said. "I didn't know about any research or grants or community service."
COVID-19 also created academic challenges for first-years. Joshua Wermers, a second-year chemical engineering major, said students struggled to be interactive in class and focused.
"When you're online, people don't really ask questions," Wermers said. "You just don't really get the greatest learning experience. When tests would roll around, it would be like, 'When did we learn this?'"
Wermers said trying to adjust to college rigor online was a "really big learning curve, because it was so strange just not actually seeing the teacher."
Dakota Peltier, a second-year elementary education student, and RM, said the pandemic “altered the way things are” and said it felt as if the start of her college experience was “delayed" by one year.
Peltier said, in addition to feeling as if she had a late jump on her academics, her biggest loss was the lack of environment on campus and having all the students there together.
“Sitting in your dorm or a study room all day with online classes and not really being around anybody — it kind of puts you in a weird place. You gain a lot of independence with yourself, but the whole college experience is going to these different classes and getting to know the campus,” Peltier said. “Getting to meet new people was hard with online classes.”