One of the things that high school seniors look forward to the most is the college experience. The thrill of leaving away from home for the first time, long term, and dorming with friends, classmates, and strangers. The freedom of making your own academic and personal schedule or deciding what and when you eat or go out.
Even though we are currently facing unprecedented times and campus life is a little different than what it used to be, many universities across the country and world are taking extra precautions and safety measures to ensure that in-coming first-year students can still have as much of the college experience as possible. However, students may be wondering what the experience is like before they make any decisions regarding either deferring their admissions or moving-in. In this post, I will share my perspective and experience as an Electrical and Computer Engineering major taking courses remotely. I would also like to preface this with the fact that I do live off-campus in Rochester, so I have the option to go to campus if I wanted to.
1 – Labs Online/Remotely
In the classes that would usually have in-person assignments, there are now remote options for all students. In my experience, remote students are given the data that they would have collected in person and are also provided with a video of the procedures if applicable. Students are graded based on the quality of their lab report and how they answer any posed questions. The in-person sessions are held with a reduced number of students so that every student has their own station and equipment to use. Because of the availability of video of the data collection, I do not feel like I am having a reduced experience compared to my peers that go in-person. Anything that can be done using simulation tools is made available to students via remote access to school computers. Teaching assistants and professors are available at pre-determined times for office or laboratory hours if students have any questions or concerns. Remote students are still able to gain most of the necessary skills they need to be successful in their courses.
2 – Exams
All exams are held online, regardless of whether the class is remote or in person. Most classes either have an open-book exam that students complete over the course of 1-3 days or a timed-exam over Zoom where only a note-sheet is allowed. Either way, both structures level the playing field for both remote and in-person students.
3 – Advising
Most department faculty and staff have been responsive over email so if a student needs help with something that is specific to their major or situation, they are able to get in touch with someone. Career services and tutoring have also migrated online where students can meet with an advisor as they did before, via Zoom or phone call. Overall, students are still able to get the help that they need despite not being able to meet in-person. If anything, the online shift has made getting help a lot more efficient because more people are checking their emails and becoming comfortable with technology. As a senior who is trying to figure out what my next steps are, I have had nothing but positive experiences reaching out to the career center advisors and attending high-quality virtual events.
4 – Clubs and Campus Engagement
I have personally never been a fan of clubs and student organizations besides professional societies related to my major. It was awkward at first, but the quick shift to online activities and meetings has not hindered our club’s activities and ability to hold successful social and professional events. The online nature allows for more people to participate in the club because they no longer have to worry about physically going to the meetings. There are still in-person events across multiple clubs and student organizations, but these are available with limited capacity and restrictions.
5 – Senior Design
As an engineering major and a senior, I am currently taking a senior design seminar class which will lead to a senior design course in the Spring. Rather than meeting in person, the seminar is online. However, student groups will still have the opportunity to go to the laboratory/workshop to do anything that they need to for their projects, safely. All groups are still being offered the same amount of funds that students were offered in previous years for purchasing equipment and materials. While the experience is not exactly what it could have been, the project advisors and industry liaisons are supportive of students and it is ultimately up to the effort of the student groups to have a great project experience.
There are probably many more things that have changed but ultimately, I would say that the experience has not changed much and is still worth trying. Whether you decide to attend the University of Rochester or any other institution, I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.