#PandemicClassof2021: Courageous seniors make the best of their final year

“When I was your age, I lived through a pandemic.”


Sammie Hoefs

Seniors learn to navigate on their own to make the best of their senior year.

Seniors walk a little taller–they know the “ins and outs” of the high school.  It’s their time to be in charge–only they’re not.  Pandemic fears, rules, and virtual learning dictate much of what they can do.

Losing a traditional senior year is not easy, but these 2021 seniors have shown grit in difficult times. Memories being made are not traditional ones, but they are creating skills, habits, and events that will impact their lives for the better. 

Seniors have learned to no longer sit idle and are rising to the challenge to become more independent, and that will shape their futures.

Navigating College Admissions Alone

One of the biggest questions every senior tires of hearing is “What are you doing next?” Navigating college applications and finding a school that is right was already challenging. Now there are virtual tours and admissions communication,  without help.

Senior Ashley Nash feels lucky she has an older brother, Andrew Nash, who has been through the college admissions process before. Her application process was more stressful and complicated, but  she completed her applications.

Nash has used her free time on the weekends to tour the campuses of the colleges she applied to. She is happy she is able to see the campus herself and not online, but knows the campus life is not normal due to COVID protocols the colleges have. 

“I did a lot of virtual tours in 2020. My parents and I even visited a few colleges and walked around, said Nash. “Although I wasn’t actually taking a tour, going on the campus helped me so much to see what universities I liked or didn’t like. With Virginia Tech, I took a virtual tour and didn’t like it at all. I didn’t get a good sense of the school. When I went and visited the campus in person I LOVED the school,” said Nash. 

Students worry about messages getting lost in their counselors’ in-boxes. Seniors always have thousands of questions and deadlines.

Colleges all have different requirements. Many expect counselor recommendations, and counselors need to send transcripts to every students’ schools. Counselors are working hard, but from a student perspective, it is scary to not be in school, so it makes communication with counselors that much harder. 

“I think my biggest challenge was whether or not I should submit my SAT scores. I only had the chance to take the test once, and I felt that put me at a huge disadvantage because I only had one chance to get a good score,” said Nash. 

Many have registered for the in-person SAT given at the end of March, but for seniors, that’s months too late.

Staying in shape for college sports

Many seniors use the gym and their sport as a healthy outlet. For some, their next step is collegiate sports and they want to be fully prepared for the next level. Some athletes feel working out is the only thing they can do right now. No traditional in-person senior year means a lot of free time on their hands. 

Several students said they work out more for their mental health than their physical health. They feel they can workout safely during the pandemic and exercise may even help their bodies fight it. 

Senior, Xander McClure, committed to Slippery Rock University to continue playing football. 

McClure feels working out during these times has created an outlet for him away from all the stress of online learning. “I felt that I could get an advantage over everyone by pushing myself to new limits while other people weren’t working hard,” he said.

The future of this pandemic is fuzzy, but, luckily, schools are slowly opening back up for hybrid learning, and sports are in play. Many athletes are continuing to push themselves in preparation for college,and some are still trying to get recruited. Athletes are taking risks everyday to continue to play their sport and better their future. 

Taking risks to play the sport you love to me isn’t even a question.”

— Xander McClure

“Taking risks to play the sport you love, to me, isn’t even a question,” said McClure. 

Senior Matt Cunningham felt the cancellation of his spring baseball season last year affected him mentally and physically. However, he took initiative and used the free time he had to work on his game. 

“I love taking the risk of playing my sport during COVID,” said Cunningham. “Sports bring athletes a joy we cannot find anywhere else. Learning how to adapt to losing our sport for a while was rough.”

Exercise and fitness is a big part of overall wellness in students’ lives. Many athletes are upset with athletic fields being closed, but gyms are open, as are many club sports. 

“Without organized sports, getting out to fields has been difficult, especially with all of them locked,” said Cunningham. 

Athletes who play club sports have participated in more practices, tournaments, and more games. Those who also play for high school teams have a double advantage because they can participate in the short high school seasons.  

When COVID hit, the NCAA put a hold on the recruitment process when they made rules that college coaches could not interact with athletes. Coaches were unable to have athletes on campus, and there were no games to watch the athletes compete. 

Senior Karlee Duda has been busy with her club team in hopes of finalizing her college plans. 

“COVID cancelled a lot of key tournaments for colleges to come watch me play. Now I feel like I had to take a step back from all the hard work I was doing to communicate with coaches,” said Duda.

Some schools will grant college seniors were granted another year of eligibility, which is great for them, but puts a wrench in athletes’ plans to find a future home. 

“Go get a job.”

Famous words from many teenagers seem to be, “I’m bored.” Now with so much free time with a shorter and more flexible school schedule, students are joining the work force. 

Senior Matt Cunningham started working at a golf course because he found himself with a lot more free time. He got the job for the summer, but it turned into a year-round commitment. 

“Things never really picked up again, so I still had so much time because school was online,” said Cunningham. 

Another senior, Jaylin Graziano, was finally able to get a job at Safeway doing the “drive up and go” department. 

“Everyone was posting they needed employees, but it took me forever to finally find a job that would commit to new staff members,” said Graziano.

Seniors have been stepping up when needed the most. It is certainly not the senior year any student has imagined, but they have definitely not been living in fear. These challenges every senior faces will only prepare them for the better. Their future may seem a little scary and unclear, but the Linganore Class of 2021 has certainly tried to make the best of the final year.