class of 2021

High School Grads Preparing for Challenging Transition Amid Pandemic

With the pandemic dragging on for over a year now, the fall 2021 semester will be a continuation of similar protocols, concerns and unknowns we've seen in the past year.

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There are some challenges in store for high school grads in the coming months as they transition into college.

With the pandemic dragging on for over a year now, the fall 2021 semester will be a continuation of similar protocols, concerns and unknowns we've seen in the past year.

“Be resilient. Things are going to happen. Challenges are going to occur in life. But it’s how we handle them. It’s how we reach out for help,” said Tracey Brown, director of Guided Counseling and College Readiness for Irving ISD.

Brown said her team of counselors has been busy helping students understand what to prepare for ahead of their first semester of college or university. They’re even making house calls to reach every single student in need of help.

“Just last week, we counted 1,700 advisement sessions for our students. Just our graduating seniors. That is huge,” she said.

She’s urging students to go through a checklist:

  • Are you set up for housing?
  • Did you register for freshman orientation online or in person?
  • What are the safety protocols for your dorm?
  • Will you have a roommate or can you request a room by yourself?
  • And will there be required COVID-19 tests or vaccines?

Many schools are recommending students get the COVID-19 vaccine before setting foot on campus. Some are requiring it and many schools have programs on campus to get the shot.

“Be prepared to take the COVID-19 vaccine -- you will definitely have to take the meningitis shot before you go,” she said. “Every college and university is different. But one thing I do find in common is that they are trying to keep their students safe.”

Brown said her students are full of worries for the upcoming year.

“You may not know everything but work with what you have. Work with what you do know,” she said. “At the end of the day, I just want to encourage students to just keep going. Put one foot in front of the other.”

That's why she's urging parents to plan ahead. With the pandemic dragging on, be prepared financially and logistically for sudden changes that could send your student back home in case of outbreaks. It’s something we saw as recently as last semester.

“Then if you do you get put in a situation where you have to immediately go back home, then you have the finances to be able to do that,” said Brown.

Still, high school grads are excited to leave the virtual world.

“As a person who doesn’t really like virtual, I tend to get distracted a lot at home especially with my dogs,” said Andrea Esparza, a graduating senior from North Mesquite High School. “I prefer face-to-face. I focus more when I have that one-on-one interaction with the teacher.”

Esparza is about to start in-person classes at UT Arlington. She said she is prepared to follow PPE protocols most universities have for classrooms to protect herself on campus.

Andrea Esparza
Andrea Esparza is a graduating senior from North Mesquite High School.

“A lot of universities and schools, in general, are reinforcing the social distancing, wearing the masks and recommending to get the vaccine -- which I got so I’m fully vaccinated!" she said.

Virtual classes will still be an option but universities are starting to move forward with reopening.

Texas State University recently announced it will return to full capacity classes this fall.

"This fall, in-person classes and activities will be back in full force on our Texas State University Campuses, giving our students the college life experience for which we are known," said university President Denise Trauth.

UT Austin also announced in March classes and campus life will be "near normal" for the fall.

"Our leadership team is working tirelessly to develop comprehensive and detailed plans in coordination with our public health experts. In general, we expect the fall 2021 semester to look more like the fall 2019 semester than the fall 2020 semester," said UT President Jay Hartzell in a message to the campus community.

Other schools like Texas Christian University are bringing almost all classes back to in-person, except for a few who do not fit the class schedule or inside of available spaces. Certain classes will be held in “nontraditional classroom areas” to accommodate social distancing protocols, according to TCU online publication, TCU 360.

Many schools have yet to make formal announcements on what the fall semester will look like exactly so parents and students are encouraged to keep an eye out for updates as the summer approaches.

For example, the CDC recently lowered its distancing requirement in schools from six to three feet in March.

“Students need to understand that things are ever-changing. So what is in place right now may be totally different from what happens in August,” said Brown.

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