‘Falling Asleep in Zoom Conferences:' How Coronavirus Is Affecting College Seniors

Undergrads - especially graduating seniors are feeling a mix of emotions - as they finish up the school year virtually.

What to Know

  • Most colleges across the nation - including here in the tri-state - have canceled or postponed commencement ceremonies because of COVID-19
  • College seniors say they feel robbed of their final semester of classes and the satisfaction of donning a cap and gown this spring
  • Some schools are contemplating virtual ceremonies in lieu of the in-person affairs

When Divine Williams started his final semester at NYU, he thought he would be trading in his North Face coat and classes in the Village for sunshine, palm trees, and an internship at an experiential and digital marketing firm in Los Angeles. 

Then came COVID-19.

“I was studying away for my last semester in Los Angeles and many of the courses were very hands-on, " said Williams, a Brooklyn native. "I was pulled out of my program and forced to come back to NYC.”

Williams is one of the many college seniors across the nation whose senior year has been sullied by the rise of COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, many colleges and universities across the nation have taken classes online -- and more disappointingly for the class or 2020, canceled graduation. That includes universities here in the tri-state such as Rutgers, St. John's, Columbia and Barnard.

Others, including Princeton and New York University have pushed back commencement, but without firm dates. 

Instead of maintaining in-person course visits, most schools have resorted to teaching from a virtual platform such as Zoom. 

“The shift to online classes has been grueling,” said Williams. “I feel robbed of my senior year.”

Due to the transition in course format, some students have felt less driven to do their work and complete their assignments.

“I find myself to be the most academically unmotivated now, than ever in my life,” said Candace Hasan, a graduating senior at Xavier University in Louisiana. “I feel like my life has no structure anymore because I’m not waking up and going to campus anymore."

She added, "I’m waking up and falling asleep in Zoom conferences.”

On top of students being affected by this reality, families have had to make adjustments as well.

“My parents were extremely sad about the news,” said Kaprielle Trenard, a graduating senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C., which also canceled its commencement. “My dad had a whole countdown every year and would call me every week with excitement. Now, not being able to see me cross the stage and scream for me has turned their anticipation into disappointment.” 

In order to make up for canceling in-person ceremonies, some schools, such as Johns Hopkins University and Miami University in Ohio, have even entertained the idea of hosting a virtual ceremony. Khary Armster, another senior at Howard, was skeptical.

"To me, it would just feel very weird to digitally tune into a live event and try to make it feel like a true graduation ceremony," said Armster.

Theola Carbon, a graduating senior at NYU, said the idea of a virtual commencement was a nonstarter.

“I think that graduation should be postponed to a later date, so students can celebrate physically,” said Carbon. “I do not believe that virtual ceremony will have the same effect.” 

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