Incoming students experience unusual start of college process

For incoming freshmen, college is a new experience for them. They’re on their own for the first time and are exposed to a new environment. Overall, the freshman experience is unique, but with COVID-19 still affecting planning, incoming students will have an unusual first year of college.  

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is slated to open this upcoming fall, offering both hybrid and online classes. Students are allowed to come to campus or stay home to continue their degree. The University will take precautions to ensure the safety of their students. 

Newly-graduated high school seniors were only two months away from earning their high school diploma when COVID-19 took over the school year.

For Kamila Marszalik, an incoming freshman in LAS, her high school was a week away from spring break. She had already made plans to go to Disney World with her high school marching band. 

The marching band would’ve spent a few days in Florida going to all the Disney parks and they would have had a chance to march down Main Street at Magic Kingdom. 

On the other hand, Michal, an incoming freshman in the Grainger College of Engineering who asked not to be fully identified, had planed to go to Europe over the summer with his family. 

“For me that would’ve been a good transition from high school to college just because with college there’s much more responsibility and I wanted to spend time with my family before heading off to college and start a new part of my life,” Michal said. 

Michal was supposed to travel with his brother through Italy and Poland to visit their grandparents and aunts and uncles before heading to Germany and Portugal with his aunt.

Now for both Marszalik and Michal, they’re spending their summer at home preparing for their first year of college. 

Usually freshmen come to campus over the summer and spend a day for orientation, where they meet their advisors, register for classes, and get their i-Card. However, due to COVID-19, incoming students are now experiencing New Student Registration online. They have been watching and attending webinars as well as finishing up their placements tests in order to register for classes and talk to their advisor online through Zoom. 

On the undergraduate admissions page, the website shows students how to go through the registration process as swiftly as possible, as well as preparing for college, such as how to get their i-Card and how to get ready for move-in day. 

For Marszalik, her experience with her advisor and registering for classes have been swift, despite everything being online.

“My situation was so easy and my advisor was super chill,” Marszalik said. “She helped me and taught me how to do everything.” 

With everything online, though, it’s a little bit harder to get in contact with someone. Staff are out of their offices and have limited availability.  Marszalik has tried to get information regarding this upcoming school year that isn’t really mentioned anywhere else to little success.

“It’s hard to get a hold of someone who has the right information,” Marszalik said. “A lot of the time they’ll say ‘I know as much as you do’”. 

As for Michal, the process of registering for classes was unexpected. 

“To be honest I was a bit shocked at how much independence there was with that activity,” Michal said. “I thought they would create my schedule for me.” 

Michal struggled a bit with the system used to pick classes. For one of his classes, a section of chemistry, there’s a lecture, discussion and lab that needs to be signed up for. 

“My biggest problem was pairing the chemistry lab with my chemistry lecture and discussion,” Michal said. “I thought that there was a way the system automatically puts a schedule based on your preferred times, how many classes you want in one day, but I realized that was not the case.” 

One of the first big things freshmen do for college is move into their dorm. It’s an emotional, but also tiring day for the whole family. Families are moving in their children and getting ready to say goodbye. Streets and residence halls are packed with students and families going up and down stairs and elevators. 

With social distancing still in place, it will be more difficult to move everyone in at the same time. University Housing will be offering early drop off dates from August 3-7 and August 10-14. Students will be able to choose this option by appointment and will be able to move-in all their belongings, but not be able to check-in or live in their room yet. Another option for students will be during the typical move-in week and again will be moving in by appointment from August 16-20 depending on what day they choose.

As for Private Housing, Newman Hall will be moving in students from August 15-23. During a chosen time slot, parents and two family members will be moving in all the belongings. From 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. five students will be moving in every 30 minutes. 

Bromley Hall’s move-in days will be from August 16-20 and students will have an assigned date and time to move-in with the ability to request an alternate date.  

With move-in day already a chaotic day and now with the need for social distance, it can possibly create even more chaos. 

Michal has seen his older brother and sister move into their own dorms and get the usual experience, but with COVID-19 still present, his own experience will be completely different. 

“I think they’re definitely gonna have to either split us up over a long period of the day or change it to two days because it’s not that possible in my opinion to have a bunch of students move-in during one day,” Michal said. 

Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees