Additional obstacles will hinder campus adjustment
August 5, 2020
As a freshman — a small and naive tadpole in a large ocean — making choices on classes and extracurricular involvement is difficult enough during a normal year.
Now, a pandemic has cast a maelstrom of uncertainty and confusion upon the student body. Housing arrangements and study abroad plans have been upended and class schedules uprooted. Students received an unclear and tentative plan from the University and a new time ticket for class schedules. As a result of all the chaos, consultation time slots with advisers may be competitive in the fall.
The least The Daily Illini can do is use its student expertise to provide some guidance to incoming freshmen.
With regards to choosing classes, during a pandemic or not, perhaps the most crucial element of any course is its professor. Different sections of the same class, taught by different professors, can be entirely disparate experiences to its respective students. It is arguably an injustice that these experiences can be labeled by the same class code.
When forming one’s schedule, the way a class fits into graduation requirements is crucial, but the second most important item to consider should be the section professor or instructor, even outweighing the factor of the time of the class. One only has to witness the full 8 a.m. section with the preferable professor to understand most students worry about their professors for the semester.
However, this semester will yield different considerations. As a new student, lectures and larger classes will most likely fill one’s schedule rather than smaller, individual sections. Since the University has declared its intention to move larger classes online, the vehicle by which a class is taught is paramount.
Many upperclassmen will attest that, based on the latter half of the Spring semester, an online experience is not the same as a classroom experience. For this reason, new students would be wise to seek as many in-person classes as possible, unless the online format suits the student’s need for flexibility.
Generally, live lessons are conducive to better learning. Large lectures, the starting point for many majors, typically serve as the academic bedrock. The foundation provided by those classes is imperative to a solid performance through the completion of the major. Therefore, one should weigh these decisions wisely.
Also, it should be noted that most students are capable of making schedule changes through the start of the semester, so don’t feel trapped or married to a particular schedule once one is formed.
Beyond classes, the first semester is an opportunity to experiment with different types of extracurricular involvement. Normally, a new student’s first encounter with RSOs — registered student organizations, otherwise known as clubs, sports and other activities — is Quad Day, a large gathering of students and organizations on the Main Quad. It is unlikely that the University would permit a gathering that large so soon, so don’t get your hopes up for a 2020 Quad Day.
Unfortunately, it is presently unclear whether or not many RSOs will even be permitted to assemble. The University, in a recent Massmail, stated that it would adhere to state guidelines on the size of gatherings, which, to me, sounds like a way to avoid culpability for disallowing RSO meetings.
If, however, RSOs are allowed on a more limited scale, new students will have to be more proactive than ever before in seeking out extracurricular activities, and clubs will have to be more creative than ever in recruitment initiatives. Both new students and RSOs themselves will suffer from a semester of lackluster recruitment and meager involvement.
Being proactive means keeping up with UIUC Facebook pages and the University subreddit, reaching out to RSOs on Facebook and networking with involved individuals in classes. Another good resource is the Office of Registered Organizations, located on the second floor of the Illini Student Union and next to the Student Organization Complex, where certain RSOs tend to congregate.
Still, RSOs will certainly do their best to place flyers across campus and make their presence known. Political RSOs will undoubtedly need help given the general election later this year.
If you’re interested in the Daily Illini in particular, you can email Sam Roberson at [email protected].
Sadly, because of a global crisis, new students will have more obstacles to adjusting to campus life. But one must not let it serve as an excuse for poor grades or little involvement.
Instead, heed the advice in this column in order to ensure a great semester, and allow that semester to serve as the silver lining and a great end to the dark chapter that has been 2020.