When first-year students head to Dartmouth College in September, they’ll make history.
Everyone will have their own room, or live in a 2-bedroom double. After being tested for COVID-19, those who are negative will quarantine in their rooms for 14 days. All meals will be delivered.
Anyone violating the strict coronavirus protocols — including being in another student’s room — must leave campus within 24 hours. That won’t be difficult: Students have been told to bring “only those items they can take with them if required to leave on short notice.”
None of that bothers Sam Laskin. The recent Staples High School graduate is excited to attend the school that accepted him early decision last December.
Sam — who served as Staples Players president — was attracted to Dartmouth by its focus on undergraduate education, strong government program and great extracurriculars.
Classes — most of them conducted remotely — will be far different this fall. Many clubs will not meet in person. Even Dartmouth’s vaunted first-year orientation program — featuring camping and hiking trips — has been canceled.
After the pandemic slammed into Staples — knocking out, along with everything else, Players’ spring production of “Seussical” just hours before opening night — Sam kept busy.
He worked with Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long on a virtual show. He MC-ed the Class of 2020’s graduation video.
And he waited to hear Dartmouth’s plan. When it was announced that his class (and juniors) had “priority” for this fall — though members of those classes could opt to study entirely remotely, or take a gap year — he decided to head to Hanover.
“I had a great 4 years at Staples. But I’m ready to move on,” Sam explains. “I want to be in an environment where everyone is learning.
“I want to meet people in real life, not on social media. A huge reason I chose Dartmouth is the community. Some traditions will be gone this year, but the school is committed to bringing us into the Dartmouth community. I want to be there for it.”
Most of Sam’s friends will attend their schools this fall. He cannot think of any who will take a gap year because of the virus.
This is a “harrowing time,” Sam admits. Yet he has faith that his classmates — those from Staples, and soon at Dartmouth — will emerge from it with strength of character, and a desire to do good things in the world.
“Life goes on,” he says. “We adapt and adjust.”
Like Sam, recent Staples graduate Patricio Perez Elorza has been accepted by an Ivy League school.
But he will not be there this fall.
COVID struck while Patricio was still weighing his school choices. He chose Yale University because of its excellent academic reputation, including pre-law program; its proximity to New York City, where he hopes to work; the “vibrant” city of New Haven, and the school spirit.
He was also impressed by “Bulldog Days”: a series of Zoom videos and conferences throughout April.
But when he was given the option of enrolling for the fall semester or deferring admission, Patricio chose the latter.
“A lot of the college experience is meeting new people, going to class and interacting with professors,” he says.
“With almost every class online, you miss all that. I like learning in person.”
He also would miss participating in a business club and club soccer, neither of which would occur this fall.
And — because only sophomores, juniors and seniors will be on campus next spring — he decided to wait until next fall.
He’s already got a gap year job: launching and managing an app to help the O Living construction firm with its projects. He’ll take a course to learn Excel, and stay involved with both the Staples soccer program and his St. Luke Church youth group.
In the spring, when restrictions may ease, he hopes to travel.
Of Patricio’s friends, one will attend Yale this fall. Some are going to college; others will stay home, studying online. A few are taking gap years.
Their moods vary, he says. “The ones who are going to school are optimistic. They hope for the best. The others are doing gap years because they think college won’t be what they expected.”
The high school Class of 2020 has been through a lot. As they begin their next journey, the college Class of 2024 faces much more uncharted territory.