Freshman experience continues to change as pandemic evolves

Students+sit+outside+on+South+Lawn+during+Topper+Fest+on+Friday%2C+Aug.+20%2C+2021.

Brittany Fisher

Students sit outside on South Lawn during Topper Fest on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.

Damon Stone, News reporter

The freshman experience serves as the first glimpse into how college life will unfold.

The COVID-19 outbreak has drastically shaped and reshaped the WKU experience as things continue to change and evolve.

During all this time, previously in-person classes went entirely online.

For JC Perkins, a current junior, his experience as a freshman started off as normal, but took a drastic change in the spring of 2020.

“It was chaotic for every person moving in [before COVID-19], but it wasn’t as stressful because we didn’t have to wear masks or anything,” Perkins said. “Before COVID, freshman year was really fun because we didn’t have a lot of restrictions. I had a lot of good experiences before COVID hit.”

When students were sent home, the experience of freshman year was taken away from Perkins almost entirely.

“I was deprived of all that social interaction because we were all required to stay at home,” Perkins said. “[COVID-19] has impacted the other freshman, and even the incoming freshmen, negatively because I have friends who are sophomores now who did MASTER Plan who did not have the same MASTER Plan that I had.”

The class of 2024, in comparison to 2023, has grown more accustomed to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the experiences the class would typically have seen were altered.

For Ayden Quiram, sophomore, his experience was a continuation of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

“It was strange because it was the later peak of COVID,” Quiram said. “Moving in, I thought we would be sent back home in two weeks because of COVID, so I didn’t bring most of my stuff. It was definitely weird.”

Freshman orientation for the class of 2024, including MASTER Plan and the H4 retreat for honors students, had been tweaked, shortened or moved online.

The class of 2024 came to campus with the majority of their classes remaining online, with some still taking in-person classes or attending hybrid courses.

“I would not say that, with my freshman experience, there was not much experience,” Quiram said. “I know this is not the case for everyone, but [the majority] of my classes were online. I feel like I didn’t gain much experience from my online classes because they were so disorganized.”

The current freshman class experienced the most familiar version of MASTER Plan since the pandemic. Last year’s hybrid structure disappeared as more students received vaccinations, allowing in-person events to return with masks.

The return of a more normal MASTER Plan is a hopeful sign of a more normal school year.

Katie Pigg, freshman, was happy with the move-in. The campus she’s entering resembles the typical college experience more than anytime since the pandemic began.

“It’s more normal than it has been in the past year,” Pigg said. “The whole mask thing is not too much
of a problem because we get to have a normal year. I feel like Western makes sure that you’re not [moving in] on your own, like they do have opportunities such as MASTER Plan where everyone’s doing it together.”

Leann Lyon, an incoming freshman, is similarly optimistic about her upcoming time on campus thanks to programs such as MASTER Plan.

“I haven’t met a person here that’s not very nice,” Lyon said. “[With MASTER Plan], the school really has ways to connect freshmen [with] food trucks and music on the South Lawn, so it’s really cool. I would say it’s going pretty good so far.”

News reporter Damon Stone can be reached at [email protected] wku.edu.