The New College Experience

2020 Kinnelon graduates Morgan Festa and Carley Hall share their thoughts on their virtual college experiences thus far.

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Photo courtesy of Morgan Festa.

Morgan Festa (middle) and Carley Hall (right), along with their floor, celebrate Festa’s 18th birthday with a chocolate cupcake while wearing the required masks.

From a shortened senior year, missing prom, senior trips, and more to being unable to fully enjoy freshman year in college, the Class of 2020 has had it rough. While the ongoing pandemic has affected many students across the nation, the Class of 2020 seems to be unable to get a break from the changes COVID-19 demands of schools.

These demands have left colleges taking precautionary steps to ensure the complete safety of both their students and staff, as many students may have to travel between state borders, and in some cases, even international ones. As a result, many colleges in New Jersey, including Princeton and Rutgers, have decided to start off the 2020-2021 school year with fully-remote and virtual school instruction. Other colleges, such as The College of New Jersey, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and more, plan on introducing hybrid courses of study for their students.

As for two of our own local 2020 Kinnelon High School graduates, Morgan Festa and Carley Hall, both attending the University of New Hampshire, college this year won’t be as grim. Luckily for both Festa and Hall, the University of New Hampshire is allowing students to stay in the dorms. However, all lecture classes will be held virtually, with the exception of the in-person labs required for many of the science classes.

Best friends for three years, these two have chosen to not only attend the same college as each other but also to room together. Festa, currently undeclared but looking to major in nutrition, says that she is “loving rooming with Carley. We make a great team. Rooming with her gave me comfort and certainty that I was going to have a good roomie, which was nice to have in this very uncertain time.”

While both of them have only been on the college grounds and in the dorms for less than a week, the other girls on their floor have already gotten close, celebrating Festa’s 18th birthday that recently passed on Aug. 30, making her feel at home despite this being her first birthday without her family. Festa says, “The best part so far has to be the small birthday party my floor threw me. It was really fun.”

Festa adds, “The only difficult part I’ve experienced so far was meeting people but as soon as I started hanging out with the girls on my floor, I made a lot of friends.” Similarly, Hall stated that due to COVID-19 precautions, hanging out with newly-made friends is quite difficult, saying that, “with the social distancing guidelines, it has been difficult to make plans with the people I have met.”

However, despite this difficulty, the best part of college for Hall thus far has been “the flexibility to schedule my own classes based on my interests. I’m excited for the opportunity to study what I want and to meet new people, even with the difficult circumstances.” Festa adds that she is “most excited for the freedom in college.”

Nonetheless, Hall stays grateful for the opportunity to be on campus, even with social distancing, saying, “[While] it is much more difficult to meet people with social distancing guidelines, and most major events have been canceled or moved to a virtual platform, I still feel lucky to be on campus and able to attend my labs, as many colleges are 100% virtual this semester.”

Even though no one knows what’s in store for this school year, we can be sure that the recently graduated class of 2020 will be able to pull through and start their freshman year of college on the right foot, whether that be virtual, in-person, or a mix of both.