How to Make the Most of College in a Pandemic

*Written by Madison Ernst*

With little time for goodbyes, college students were rushed home in March 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19. My sophomore year ended too soon. 

After my low-key summer spent with my family, I was focused on making the most of my junior year at Syracuse University. 

I knew my college experience would be different than what I was already accustomed to. I would no longer be attending fraternity parties with 300 people or sitting in the student section at basketball games. 

However, despite the pandemic, my friends and I had the most amazing semester, and made some great memories. 

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Courtesy of Madison Ernst

Here’s how we did it. 

I was lucky enough to transition from living in a dorm to an apartment this year. This has completely changed my college experience because I was able to make my own rules about how I wanted to live. 

With all of our classes online, my roommates and I learned to navigate our schedules without getting in each other’s way. We used common areas to do homework and spend time together — one of our favorite things to do was gather on the couch at night for a movie or show. 

Of course there were times where we felt like we were losing our minds, so we walked around campus and completed our assignments outside for a change of scenery.

Our social life was very different from our first two years of college. We went from hopping around different frat parties to planning our weekends ahead of time.  We kept our social circle as small as possible and we formed closer relationships with our guy friends, which made our nights much more memorable. 

The first Saturday night of the semester, we hosted dinner, which quickly became a weekly event. The consistency of these plans allowed our relationships to grow. One Saturday, we even Zoomed with our parents for a “happy hour.” For nights we didn’t feel like cooking, we went out for dinner together — dressing up and going out was a nice change of pace for us. In our group of eleven, we made the most of our time together, listening to good music and eating delicious food. We looked forward to our Saturday night dinner each week.

Courtesy of Madison Ernst

Keeping our circle small was the best way for us to have fun, while still being safe. We always knew who we had been in contact with, which made us fear contracting COVID-19 less. We kept an honest relationship within our circle so that any COVID scare was handled properly, and we trusted each other to be safe when we were apart so we could enjoy ourselves when we were together. 

On the weekends, we spent time with our friends. Whether it be hanging out at someone’s apartment or house or an adventure off-campus, we always had a good time. 

We kept a polaroid camera, and we designated a wall in our apartment for all of our photos— photos we’ll be able to look back on for the rest of our lives. 

We are at the age where we will reminisce about these years and call them the “good ole days.” This is the time to make the most out of every situation, pandemic or not. While this is not what I thought my college experience would look like three years ago, I could not have asked for a better semester. 

I lived in the moment and said “yes” to every (safe) experience and  I spent time with the people who matter most to me. My college friends quickly became my family, and made my life that much more special. 

Courtesy of Madison Ernst

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