Editor’s Note: As incoming college freshmen, students were asked if they expected to need extra help or tutoring to deal with learning loss in high school, their worries about failing or having difficulty with college courses and their outlook on starting their college careers. For more information, please see our related story: Colleges prepare for incoming freshmen with high school learning loss.
Incoming freshman, business major, at the University of Southern California, graduate of South High School in Torrance
“I still feel well-prepared, even though there are definitely some things I’ve missed out on. Like for my AP Econ classes, my teacher only officially taught the Micro part of Macro and Micro Econ, but then I decided to self-study for Macro to take both tests anyway. So, there were more challenges in that way, in that I had to take more responsibility for myself. … I’m really excited for USC, and I think honestly, being an online senior has prepared me better than being in person could have in a lot of ways because I had to take on a lot more responsibilities and then keep track of myself. And so having that accountability gave me more confidence that I’ll be able to succeed in college and then keep track of myself. And then I also have my brother Timothy, too. I always see how people at USC, like the Trojan family, is so connected and supportive of each other. So, I’m excited to meet as many Trojans as I can and just make connections because I know that I’ll be in good hands no matter what.”
Incoming freshman, behavioral neuroscience, Irvine Valley College; graduate of Orange County School of the Arts
“I’m going to be going to Irvine Valley College for at least the next two years. I’m kind of planning to transfer to a UC after two years. It’s technically undecided, but I want to do behavioral neuroscience. This year I took AP Calculus AB and, oh, it was so hard. I’m deciding to take Calculus 1 again next year and not move onto Calculus 2. I know it’s not going to set me back because a lot of people don’t even get to AP Calc in high school, but I don’t know if I can go to Calculus 2 after this. Other than that, I feel like it’ll just be getting back into the swing of having to study for stuff. I’ve actually never done tutoring before, so I don’t know if it’s something I would consider. But my dad is an AP Calculus teacher and I needed a lot of help from him.”
Incoming freshman, cinema, San Francisco State University; graduate of Orange County School of the Arts
“I don’t think they need to change anything, curriculum-wise, they just need to understand and have sympathy. They have to recognize the fact that we were in a pandemic. I feel like the colleges are going to want to forget about Covid and we’re going to be worked to the bone and have high expectations for us. I hope that they will recognize that we’re coming out of a pandemic, and they need to realize that and have sympathy and understanding for the Class of 2021. That’s all I ask for. That’s literally all. This is a different year. We’ve had it the worst, that’s the thing. I’m scared that people are just going to forget that the pandemic ever happened because we’re back and we go back to a normal schedule. We can’t be doing that. We can’t just go back to something just because we’re not in a pandemic anymore. The way that teachers changed their curriculum at the beginning of the pandemic to accommodate for that time — they need to be doing that now. Right now is not the same time as it was in 2019. They need to be understanding, that’s it.” He’s especially worried about economics. “It was just brutal, really awful. … When the pandemic first started it was very much like, oh my God, I get to focus on my grades now and so I ended up with a 4.1 [GPA] or something like that. So it was really nice to have that because I went from like a 3.6 to a 4.1. … At this point in my life, yeah. I think Covid has done a number on me and how I feel about having to just isolate myself. I’m ready just because I’ve been ready ever since like, the beginning of senior year. I am so sick and tired of just being in my house. A lot of us were like, we’re stuck in here for an entire year with our families, we just need to move out.”
Incoming freshman, photography, Pasadena City College, graduate of South Pasadena High School
“I think distance learning really just makes you want to not do anything. Especially because a lot of my friends, we’ve had discussions in class and in breakout rooms, but you pretty much just wake up, open your laptop, you’re in class. Sometimes like most of the people are barely even awake. You have nothing really to look forward to and that’s what like makes you lazy like ‘OK, what’s the point of me trying so hard if I’m not going to have any fun. I feel like that’s kind of my way of learning is ‘OK, we learn hard for a few, one or two days and then that last Friday you guys have that little breather and you guys get to chill.’ That’s kind of how most of my classes were before the pandemic. It was kind of just hard to do so over distance learning because either I wouldn’t get something and I needed extra help or I needed to stay longer, so for me, it was just like I had nothing to look forward to. So, I didn’t really pay much attention. … For sure I feel like I have a learning gap in math. I wasn’t the best at math throughout high school and I always kind of needed help and I would always struggle, no matter what level of math, it really was. I think my first class is going to be like stats, so I know for sure that I’m going to be in there needing extra help and talking with the teacher a lot more than maybe other students would just because I was never really that great at math.
Incoming freshman, engineering, Pasadena City College, graduate of Pasadena High School
“Honestly, I barely graduated. It wasn’t because the classes were super hard and I was struggling, it was because it was online. I didn’t really go to class often, I wasn’t really paying attention, and I wasn’t doing my work as much. My classes weren’t hard, I was just being extremely lazy and it’s mostly because of online. It was never this bad in person.” She’s worried about “math and science classes, the stuff I have to take from my major. I’m going to struggle a little bit because, after not paying attention at all during class in my senior year, it’s going to be jumping into class and like actually having to try and actually having to pay attention, versus me going through an entire year of not caring at all. So I definitely think it’s going to be a bit of a struggle going forward and actually working and learning and whatnot. … I don’t think I’ll need tutoring I’ll just have to do a lot more self-studying. … I’m a lot more motivated for college rather than high school because I know I want to transfer from PCC, so I know I have to do well. But I’m still worried that the old me will come back. … I think it’s really just going to be my own motivation knowing like ‘you want to transfer to UCLA, like you have to do this like, this is for your future, this is for your career. … I think I would mostly need like counseling on what to do and like where to go because I have no idea and I feel like if we were in person, counselors would force you to walk in and like sign up for things and teach you all this stuff about going to college. And like I didn’t get any of that. So I’m pretty lost on what to do and figuring out how to register for the classes and stuff took me like two weeks because I didn’t get that and overall all of that is just really overwhelming and confusing for me. Class-wise, I think that I will have to get tutoring and some help at some points, but it’s more of me having to find those resources. I also think the schools should advertise them better so that new students know that it’s available and like where to find help.”
Incoming freshman, English, California State University, Los Angeles, graduate of Crescenta Valley High School
“My teachers did a really good job on teaching through the distance learning modules. The English and math courses I took are not that hard, so I’m not really concerned about that. … In high school, I was mostly like an A and B student, so pretty average. Math was pretty much the only subject I struggled with. … I’m the type of person that really likes challenges, and to me, change or some change kind of a challenge in my mind. I’m a mix of nervous and excited to see what awaits me in college, but I feel ready. … I’m seeing things go back to normal. In my mind, I’m expecting a normal college life, like going to college, working a part-time job, going to the occasional parties and hanging out with my new friends. But like, this pandemic really taught me to expect the unexpected and not take things by surprise. … I would like that (extra help) and maybe just simple refreshers because I am a visual learner. So if professors could just write down a refresher based on that specific subject then I’ll most likely remember it, small reviews in classes.
Incoming freshman, political science, UC Riverside, graduate of Northview High School in Covina
“I feel that I was kind of knowledgeable, like throughout high school and during the pandemic I was on top of my studies. I honestly don’t think I’ll need tutoring, as such, when it comes to basic like English, math and stuff like that, but I’m going into political sciences. So if I need help or anything to do with that major, then I think I’ll need tutoring in terms of that, that nothing that’s pandemic-caused. I don’t have any worries about failing my general education, but I am worried that when I go into my major and stuff like that, that it will be like I won’t know certain things and that kind of worries me. I expect my classes to be in person following the rules of social distancing, but I don’t know if it’s going to be like a hybrid situation or fully online, or I think it’s going to be hybrid, if anything, but I hope it’s in person. If college is online, I’ll probably feel unmotivated to go. So at that point I’d probably just like go for a year, take a break and then go back because I don’t feel like it’s for me, like virtually, and I want to get like the full experience. … I didn’t want to go (to college) because I felt that college was not necessary. I will be getting my real estate license while going to college. But I just get it was unnecessary because of the virtual learning. I had a hard time with that during high school, but I still maintained my grades, but I just felt like a lack of motivation. So that’s why I also didn’t want to go. And then just for the experience that I would be paying for, but not getting it was not justifiable to me.
Incoming freshman, undecided major, Mt. San Antonio College, graduate of Northview High School
“I am worried about English classes. I’m not too confident in my English skills because I moved to California from Mexico during my sophomore year. I feel like my high school teachers really tried their best to help, but it wasn’t enough for me because I learn better when someone is teaching in a more personal way. Like it’s different when you’re online. So I’m not sure if my college professors will be as understanding. I would like to get tutoring classes in English. Even though I understand and can speak most of the time, I just want to have that extra support since it will be more advanced than high school classes. I’m definitely worried about failing. I came to the United States to attend college here, so there’s a lot of pressure to accomplish my goal of finishing college. I worry that my English skills might cause me to struggle and prevent me from achieving what I want. I feel a bit intimidated about starting college because I have a part-time job right now, and I’m not sure how I’ll be able to balance both responsibilities. I have a co-worker who is in college, and she tells me how hard it is for her, so I worry about how it will be for me. I’m scared of how navigating a new school will be, especially since I won’t know anyone there and I’m not confident in my English.”
Incoming freshman, undecided major, Sierra College, graduate of Oakmont High School in Roseville
“I’m kind of worried. It’s not really about the subject. I think it’s just about like the overall experience, I guess you could say, because I’m going to take four classes, and three of them are all going to be online. And I’m kind of worried about that because I knew I could do it with high school because high school and it’s kind of easy, but this is college. So that I’m kind of worried about it, but I have one math class on campus. So other than that, I think I’m not that worried. … The only class I’m worried about right now is going to be my math, however, but that one’s on campus. Math is not my strong suit. So I think I’ll just have to wait and see. If I do need a tutor, it probably will be that class, just seeing my other class is English, and I do pretty good in that. And then a few are electives. So I think if I do need a tutor, I’d have to wait and see how my math class feels. … I’m really worried about not passing any of them. I mean, I think my main issues would probably be that math and English class just because they’re like the general education, and I wouldn’t want to have to retake and then spend more years at this community college than I would want to.”
Kamila (Kami) Martinez
Incoming freshman, art major, Sierra College, graduate of Oakmont High School
“I would say definitely (I have a learning gap) with math. It was never my greatest subject. So I think having to continue if I have to continue learning it online, that would be like a bigger issue for me, but English or like history or anything else, that would be fine. … I always tried to be the best student I could. So these last two years, I was like, on the principal’s list, you know, I got my awards for that. But there’s definitely a few classes where I struggled and I didn’t get the best grades. … I’m always the type of person that prefers to try to figure out myself, like I’m always scared to ask for help. So that’s like my biggest issue. … Once July starts, like finishing up and once we get into August, it’ll be like set in, and I think I’ll still be excited and I’ll be ready. I’m taking two that are in person and then two that are online. … I feel like it’s always nice to have a guidance counselor. Like I was always really close to my counselor at Oakmont. And so I talked to like an adviser for Sierra and she was super nice. So I feel like having more of that would make me feel a lot more welcomed and supported.”
Incoming freshman, psychology, Cal Poly Pomona, graduate of Rowland High School in Rowland Heights
“I’m most worried about math. Math has always been something difficult for me. And I feel … like how difficult it’s going to be to get the productiveness back. … Yeah, I think I’m OK with doing college but … some tutoring on classes that I’m struggling with. Think that would be the best option … They should maybe have some free tutoring in a library or something to help the students. … I didn’t take any AP classes and … AP classes are college-level classes. … I feel like I could get used to what’s going to happen when I go to college, but I feel like I also should have taken those classes to help me be more prepared. … I feel like mental health has been like a really important thing, a really important issue that needs to be taken care of, and that’s what helped me decide to be a psychology major, so that I could become a therapist. So there truly has been a lot of myths surrounding mental health during the time. People have been doing things for families. During the pandemic, I actually struggled a lot being at home all the time. So I felt like I wanted to help other people, when they’re feeling that way.”
Incoming freshman, education, Sierra College, graduate of Oakmont High School
” I’ve always struggled with English and math in general. In high school, mainly math was more of a struggle for me, and I did have to retake a class one year. Going into college, knowing that college is a tougher criteria of education, math is definitely a class I’m worried about taking. English was not my first language, growing up I learned Spanish first. I was put in ELA (English language arts) for about five years. I was put in a support group with other students who had struggles with learning as well. In that group we would learn what the other students were learning, but slower and more in-depth so we could comprehend it. … I would need a tutor’s help with math. During Covid, a lot of teachers at my school cut back on the curriculum, we just focused on the assignments we needed to graduate. I’m worried about getting back into that normal, intense workload. For the past year, I’ve been used to less work, so that did make online just a little bit easier. … Since I don’t know what to expect with the classes I’m taking other than learning new information. I don’t think the class itself will be a struggle for me, I think mainly the workload and just balancing out my time wisely to get my work done will probably be something to put me back and cause me to fail if that does happen. I know I have to do math in the spring, so I’m worried about that class being a class I could possibly fail. I don’t feel like I will fail college. Reaching out and getting the support I need is difficult with Covid and all. I don’t see myself failing because I’m very determined to get my two years done.”
– Iman Palm
Incoming freshman, film/business, California State University Northridge, graduate of Granada Hills Charter
“I am a little bit worried because online school just felt more of a lecture than anything. I think it pushed me back a little, it’s going to be harder to stay focused when I had a year of kind of being distracted. … I think I’m going to need a tutor, once I get my classes, for English and math. I didn’t take math my senior year of high school, so I’ll definitely need more help with that. … I’ve spoken with my counselor and she said I’m going to have to take math and that I’ll have to take classes over the summer. I was like, ‘It’s better than doing nothing, that’s for sure.’ At least, I’m getting a little bit of a head start, but I know that by the time I actually get into college, it’s going to be more of a full-on car crash waiting to happen. … I think it’s definitely been on my mind (fear of failing) because I’m paying for the opportunity to get a higher education than having it free during my 12 years. It adds an extra layer of stress because if I fail one class that’s $400 down the drain that I can’t get back. … I feel like I am because I know college is going to be way different; it’s going to be adjusted around my schedule instead of working around someone else’s schedule. I’m excited to meet new people who come from different walks of life. I’m ready for a good challenge.”
This story was reported and written by college journalism students who are interns with EdSource’s California Student Journalism Corps.