Who has it worse?

Compared to the class of 2020, COVID affects 2021 seniors more

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Photo by Caden Rainwater

photo illustration.

Story by Graci Henard, staff writer

Everyone was so apologetic to the 2020 seniors. Teachers went easy on them because they missed out on so much. Facebook moms posted tributes to their seniors for being so strong through a pandemic. But who really has it worse? The Class of 2020, or the class of 2021? It is no question that the class of 2020 suffered a great loss, but the effect of COVID-19 on the Class of 2021 is far greater. 

The class of 2021 has to endure an irregular school year

For six months out of a nine-month school year, the Class of 2020 had a normal year. They went to football games and homecoming. They piled in the lunchroom and crowded with all of their friends at the tables. Not to mention, they went to class, conversed in the hallways and did not have to wear masks. They attended 124 regular school days out of 171 compared to the zero regular school days the Class of 2021 has endured. 

The class of 2021 is going without many school traditions

There will be no traditional senior sunrise or bacon fry. No Battle of the Axe. No glitzy dresses for homecoming. No event during this school year is guaranteed for the senior class.

“I’m just devastated,” senior Alan Olvera said about the cancellation of the Battle of The Axe. “[COVID] is definitely making things more difficult for students to be able to enjoy senior year.”

COVID-19 has destroyed any drop of normalcy for the 2021 seniors fall semester; whereas, the Class of 2020 enjoyed a regular fall semester.  

The class of 2021 must “mask up” and social distance

The Class of 2020 never endured having to sit 6 feet apart in the lunchroom or wear masks at all times. Seniors this year are more worried about grabbing their mask than their homework. Unlike past years, students are required to keep their masks on at all times and must be socially distanced.

“I don’t even get to talk to my friends because we’re so far away,” senior Mary-Grace McAfee said. Social distancing changes the atmosphere at lunch.

“It feels like we’re so far away,” Olvera said. “We won’t be able to get to enjoy our lunch as much.”

Majority of assignments for the class of 2021 are online

Many teachers have gone paperless because they have to juggle both remote and in-person students. “I kind of just wish we had the paper and pencil back,” McAfee said. “[Using traditional pen and paper] makes a different connection in a lot of people’s brains.” 

High school was not designed to be online; it requires more hands-on learning. The class of 2020 endured online schoolwork, but TEA did not require as many weekly assignments as they do now. This year’s online classes require more time and a more independent learning process. 

College applications are more challenging for the class of 2021

With most college applications due before March 1, the 2020 seniors’ applications were not affected by the start of the pandemic. This year’s seniors have to continue to complete the required paperwork without all the opportunities that can aid in essay questions and personal resumes.

“[The pandemic] makes it more challenging for me to involve myself in school and fill up my resume with as many clubs and organizations,” Olvera said. Without ways to be involved in the school and community, students find it challenging to show universities what makes them stand out among other applicants. 

Most 2021 athletes are not committed to a college

Many of last year’s senior athletes were already committed before the pandemic hit, or they had signed on the early signing day.

“I was super fortunate I took all my visits in the fall and signed in November,” 2020 senior Owen Likins said.

Even if an athlete had chosen not to sign early, coaches had the ability to view a player’s performance in person or on film; this made it easier to make offers to  the 2020 seniors, even with the COVID shut down. While 2020 athletes were unaffected by the pandemic, the Class of 2021 is struggling. The NCAA has issued a recruiting dead period for D1 and D2 schools which prevents senior athletes from making online campus visits. It also prevents college coaches from watching athletes perform, making it hard for graduating seniors to stand out among recruits. 

Few potential colleges are allowing on-campus tours to 2021 graduates

Instead of hosting actual tours, many universities are hosting online tours where a student can watch a video of the campus. Senior Fezeka Barns took an online college tour to Howard University over the summer.

“I definitely would’ve preferred the in-person tour over the online one, because with the online tour I wasn’t able to go into any of the buildings that were on the campus, and I didn’t get to connect with any currently enrolled students to hear about their experience,” Barnes said.

Barnes is among many seniors faced with the challenge of deciding where to continue their education without personally visiting the university. 

The class of 2021 has to worry about exposure from peers

The class of 2021 upheld the tradition of painting “senior” on their car windows, but the girls in the group wore masks to protect themselves from the virus. Unlike previous years, students this year have to worry about exposing themselves, even when with friends. “[Wearing masks] was annoying,” senior Mollie Johnson said.

The class of 2021 has to be conscious of the possibility of getting exposed during the regular school day.

“[It] felt impossible almost for someone I knew to ever get sick,” senior Cayli Clack said after a friend tested positive. “I immediately got worried, as well as my other friends, that we had been exposed to her.”

The class of 2021 has to constantly be aware of who’s around and how close they are, making it difficult to enjoy social get-togethers. 

Although our senior year is nothing like we pictured, some positives have come out of it. For one, it is easier to miss in-person instruction since assignments are online and class is livestreamed. This allows students involved in extracurriculars the ability to attend class even when off campus or makeup assignments on their own time. It also may be easier for students to make the college transition due to the abundance of online classes already in place. This pandemic also gives the 2021 graduating seniors the opportunity to create new traditions that can be used for years to come.