Soon-to-be graduates reflect on college life in COVID-19 era

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Ari Davis
COVID-19 changed college experiences for students. This year’s graduates will have spent a little more than half of college in the pandemic. (Ari Davis)

COVID-19 has created a unique college experience for this year’s April 2022 graduates. They have spent most of their education in a global pandemic which took away many typical college life experiences for them. 

Almost two years ago the pandemic changed school, work and social life for these students. They spent a little more than half of their college years with COVID-19 protocols such as remote learning, mask mandates and social distancing. 

Psychology major Maddie Critchfield is one of many students who felt the pandemic impacted her college career. 

“It’s been kind of disappointing,” Critchfield said. “You go to college with certain expectations and a lot of mine didn’t get fulfilled.” 

Studying abroad, internships, social life, events and even classes have not been ideal for these soon-to-be graduates. The concerns of getting sick and the spread of the virus caused many of these limitations. 

“I was thriving freshman and sophomore years, but now I know nobody in any of my classes and haven’t seen friends in a long time,” human development major Whitney Burge said. 

Even with all the negatives, these students have seen upsides in their experience. “There were still good things that came out of the pandemic and I hope we remember them,” Critchfield said.

Burge moved home and was able to reconnect with an old friend who is now her husband.

Global supply chain student Ryan Fenn said he felt like the pandemic helped him to recognize his strengths and weaknesses. Fenn had mostly in-person classes during COVID-19 and felt this has allowed him to maintain a social life. 

“I know that my situation is a little bit more unique than other students and it allowed for it not to be that big of a deal for me,” Fenn said. 

As cases spike again because of the omicron variant, many graduates are concerned about what it means for their last semester at BYU.

“I’m just so over the pandemic and ready to move past it, and right when I think we will, there’s another mandate put into place or there’s another version of the virus or something that puts us back again,” Burge said. 

Fenn also expressed frustration. “We should just get back to normal. We should have less restrictions.”

For some students, the larger concern is if the omicron variant’s influence on cases will impact graduation ceremonies at the end of the semester. 

“I am just hoping that I will be able to get an actual graduation,” Critchfield said. “I would hate it if I didn’t get to walk for the four years I worked.”

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