While there are some universal challenges college freshmen face, Erica Pulido, SLU freshman, feels that the class of 2025 had unique obstacles due to the pandemic.
“I think that this class is challenged with returning to an academic environment that isn’t in front of a computer screen,” Pulido said. “I haven’t taken a final since junior year [of high school], so big exams in college are going to freak me out and cause a lot of stress and anxiety which the pandemic has brought upon everyone.”
SLU took several actions in an attempt to mitigate the stress of transitioning to college by providing as many First-Year Experiences as possible. This year, it began with a SLU101 virtual orientation over the summer. Jackie Weber, Director of Student Involvement and Fall Welcome Community Chair, was pleased with the results, despite not being able to be together in-person.
“This summer, [SLU101] was done virtually again but because of some of the restrictions being lifted we were able to do some add-on experiences,” Weber stated.
These experiences allowed students to see what it was like to be on SLU’s campus; an opportunity that was not offered last year due to tighter restrictions.
Despite the virtual barrier faced when socializing through technology, many freshmen felt that the exposure to resources and mentors was useful as they switched from a high school mindset to a college one: “[SLU101] helped my transition process because I was able to get those words of advice, experiences and tips from the leaders,” Pulido said.
This bond freshmen built with the path leaders, mentors, residence assistants and Oriflamme leaders continued far past freshman orientation. As the class of ‘25 walked through the doors to their residence halls, they were welcomed with the familiar faces of upperclassmen that help first-year students transition to SLU.
“The Oriflamme leaders have been such an important part of my transition into college,” Pulido said. “I know that I can reach out to them at any moment, and they will be more than happy to give me advice or point me in the right direction.”
Senior Oriflamme leader and University101 teaching assistant Kyle Archdeacon has taken on the role of being a part of the support system freshmen rely on. While these First-Year Experience leaders helped freshmen transition to college, Archdeacon explained that he and other leaders were able to learn from the class of 2025 as well.
“I understand that my [high school] experience is very different from the incoming class,” Archdeacon said. “So meeting them where they’re at has certainly provided a different [perspective].”
The high school experience ended with a mix of changes for most of SLU’s freshman class. For some, this included entirely virtual learning, while others attended in-person classes with collaborative-style learning restrictions.
“I, myself, wonder if I was in [the shoes of a freshmen] and doing entirely virtual school and missing out on a lot of opportunities for socialization…I’m not sure where I would be,” Archdeacon said.
Despite missing out on some social and emotional learning from high schools, the members of the class of 2025 said that they learned to adapt to a constantly changing environment.
“During COVID, school wasn’t the same,” Pulido said. “And now that we are coming out of COVID, we not only have to adjust to a new college environment but also adjust back to our old study habits and academics in general.”
Weber feels that the social adjustment freshmen face is one that is exacerbated by high school restrictions.
“Not only is it exciting that [freshmen] get to do these events now when they can go to things like Paint SLU or the Student Government Association’s Prom, but also, there is a new level of anxiety or mental health issues because [some] haven’t been in a crowd larger than 10 in over a year,” Weber said.
As President Dr. Pestello said at the convocation in August, the class of 2025 is the second-largest class SLU has ever hosted. Regardless of size, COVID, and every other factor working against this class, perseverance remains in freshmen like Pulido.
“I can talk to people and make friends with them in the elevator, in line for food, just walking to class,” Pulido said. “No one has been mean. Everyone is friendly and eager to expand their social circles.”