Class of 2020 vs. 2021: who had it worse in quarantine?

An+illustration+showing+a+setup+of+virtual+learning+for+a+senior+student.+

Fiona Swan

An illustration showing a setup of virtual learning for a senior student.

Between college applications, becoming a legal adult, and senioritis, senior year already poses numerous challenges to the average high school student. However, COVID-19 created obstacles that no student could have ever anticipated. The two groups that arguably got the worse side of the deal with COVID-19 were the class of 2020 and 2021 seniors.

The class of 2020 expected their senior year to go as planned, but had the rug pulled out under them faster than they could say “senior season.” They had half of a “normal” senior year, and then spent the rest of the year watching TV in sweatpants while their Zoom classes droned on in the background. To their dismay, the class of 2020 missed out on many coveted second semester senior traditions.

“I was glad to have a break but I was upset that I’d be missing out on the last few months of bonding with my class,” said Kate Harges, a 2020 Drake graduate, “I was sad that we’d miss out on graduation, our senior trip, and senior night.”

The blessing for the class of 2020, however, was the modified grading system that was implemented last spring when distance learning first began. If a student attended all of their Zoom classes and “showed effort” in their schoolwork, they earned an A that would be averaged into their previous transcript. If they did not show effort, students earned an “Incomplete” grade and would need to complete the course over the summer.

Who had is worse during quarantine?

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In other words, students could remain in “good standing” for doing minimal work. For the seniors who were already committing to colleges, having a relaxed grading system only allowed them to further embrace “senioritis.”

“It was like senioritis on steroids…I was not paying attention in any classes,” said 2020 Drake graduate Pierre Beaurang.

Like Beaurang, Harges also recalls having felt a lack of academic motivation once quarantine started in March 2020. 

“By that point I was getting college decisions back and I felt really unmotivated to do work. I still got my work done I just didn’t put a ton of effort into it,” Harges said.

When quarantine started, the class of 2020 had already finished their college applications. They no longer needed to worry about taking standardized tests, keeping up with extracurricular activities, and completing their college applications. So, many just waited for the decisions to roll in once COVID-19 hit. According to Beaurang, this allowed him to relax and spend time with his family before potentially moving away to college.

To top off the year of “firsts,” the class of 2020 experienced the first drive-through graduation in HS 1327 history. Despite the seniors’ disappointment regarding the loss of a formal graduation, the unprecedented graduation ceremony was met with positive support from students and community members.

“I mean it wasn’t a regular graduation but the amount of effort the school and the community put into it made everyone feel really special,” Harges said.

Once the class of 2020 graduated, however, many faced the next obstacle of worrying about whether or not they would be able to physically attend college in the fall of 2020 due to COVID-19.

“Every day I’d wake up and I’d check five different news sites or different COVID sources just to see what was happening,” Beaurang said.

On the other hand, the class of 2021 seniors did not need to worry about the possibility of starting college on Zoom in their childhood bedrooms. Instead, the current seniors have had their own array of struggles and blessings during quarantine.

Although they didn’t lose their senior year in one day’s time like the class of 2020 did, the class of 2021 lost their senior year in a slow trickle of disappointment. During the summer before the 2020-21 school year, the Tamalpais Union High School District announced that students would return to school in a hybrid learning model in August. However, as COVID-19  cases rose across the nation, this plan drew back.

In March 2021, almost one full year after HS 1327 initially closed down due to COVID-19, students were finally allowed back on campus in a hybrid learning model.

“I definitely like hybrid learning better [than fully remote learning]. I feel more engaged during class and it’s giving me a chance to make real connections with my teachers and classmates,” said Sophia Riemer, a HS 1327 senior in the class of 2021.

According to some seniors, one of the most challenging aspects of their experience in quarantine has been applying to colleges.

During the spring of 2020, SAT and ACT tests were canceled across the nation due to COVID-19 restrictions. Many colleges went “test optional,” which both benefited and hurt some seniors’ college applications.

“Because of Covid, I wasn’t able to properly prepare for the SAT or ACT, so I think making applying to schools test-optional helped a lot of students out who were in the same situation as me,” said current HS 1327 senior Jasper Brown.

Due to more schools switching to “test optional,” schools experienced an influx in applicants this year. According to Los Angeles CBS Local, the number of applicants that applied to UCLA this year was 25 percent higher than last year. With thousands more students applying for the same number of spots in the next freshman class, many universities only became more competitive.

Another crucial aspect of the college application process is for seniors to visit campuses to decide which school is right for them depending on factors such as size, weather, surrounding area, and school spirit. On account of COVID-19,  many college campuses have not hosted tours this year. This creates challenges for the class of 2021 seniors who need to decide where they will spend the next four years – it’s difficult to do so without physically visiting schools.

“I barely had a chance to tour any colleges and at the ones that I did get to see I had to be my own tour guide,” Riemer said. “Getting the feel of a campus is a huge part of deciding which college to pick and I feel like I was definitely robbed of that experience.”

Unlike the class of 2020 seniors, the class of 2021 may get to experience some of the coveted end-of-year senior activities. Given that COVID-19 restrictions are loosening in Marin, this may allow for some sort of prom or graduation ceremony. 

Between the class of 2020 and 2021, it’s difficult to say who had it worse during COVID-19. The pandemic has affected both senior classes in different and unprecedented ways. As COVID-19 restrictions loosen in Marin and nationwide, one can only hope that future senior classes won’t have to endure what the classes of 2020 and 2021 did.

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