New year, new students, new challenges

Incoming freshmen face new challenges entering college during a pandemic

For the incoming freshmen class, whose senior year of high school was already affected when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled proms, last days of high school and traditional graduations, the idea of a fresh start in a college setting created something to look forward to. 


However, as COVID-19 continues to affect the country, most classes will be held remotely, Portland State Housing and Residence Life established a no-guest policy, and the idea of the “typical college experience” has become less realistic.


“I saw myself making new friends in my college classes and having an amazing roommate to share my college experience,” said Natalie Kapuniai-Ryan, an incoming freshman from Sherwood, Oregon. “But now it’s definitely going to be harder. I don’t have a roommate to become friends with before classes start, and if I do take classes in person, it’ll be hard to make friends given the social distancing rules put in place.” 


The new rules and guidelines due to COVID-19 have created more uncertainties, especially for these first-time college students.


“COVID definitely affected my plans on moving up to Portland,” said Haley Yamasato, an incoming freshman from Honolulu, Hawaii. “Right now I’m not even sure if I’m staying back or moving up.”  


These unprecedented circumstances have also led to hard decisions they did not expect to have to make.

“COVID-19 has definitely affected my school choice greatly,” Kapuniai-Ryan said. “I was going to play volleyball at a private college but now that most of the seasons are canceled, I backed out and am now attending PSU.”

The continual uncertainty of the current environment required flexibility in plans.

“If I was asked a year ago what I was most looking forward to in regards to starting college, it would be exploring what college life has to offer,” said Tori DeJournett, an incoming freshman from Oahu, Hawaii. “For me, living in Hawaii for most of my life, you don’t get as many opportunities as people who live on the mainland.” 

“COVID has affected my plans for the fall in every way possible. I am very sad that I won’t be on campus for the fall semester, but I am looking forward to eventually going on campus.” 


COVID-19 continues to impact new student’s college experience before the fall term even starts. 

New Student Orientation, which traditionally took the form of a half day, in-person event, where students were able to meet other new students, was turned into a 90 minute self-paced virtual session. 


“New Student Orientation is [a student’s] opportunity to learn about PSU and prepare for [their] first term. [They] will get details about campus life, student services, and degree requirements.”  PSU Admissions stated in an Instagram post.


Some challenges did arise as a result of the new style of Orientation, according to students who finished it.

“I attended a virtual orientation and it was very informative, but there’s a lot of moving pieces right now and so many unknowns that I feel unprepared. I thought I’d be signed up for classes in June or July, but I’m just now signing up for classes,” said Kapuniai-Ryan.

“If I’m completely honest, the virtual Orientation for me personally was hard to follow, but with the help of advisors, I was able to figure it out.” said DeJournett. “I definitely think if I didn’t reach out to my advisors and the admissions office I would definitely be lost and confused.” 

In an effort to create a more personal connection to new students, the admissions and orientation teams created new ways to interact with new students. 

Orientation leaders made calls to all new students to check in on their Online Orientation progress and to answer any questions. Through the Go2PSU Instagram page, an Orientation leader does a series called “What’s up Wednesdays,” where a different topic is covered live every week.

On select Wednesdays & Fridays, the Orientation team hosts Connect2PSU Days.

“Connect2PSU Days are half-day virtual events for incoming students, designed to introduce [them] to fellow new students, Orientation Leaders, and PSU staff representing a variety of campus resources and services.” states the PSU Website.

Conducted over Zoom meetings, Connect2PSU Days created a space for new students to interact in real-time in an effort to emulate the feeling of a traditional in-person Orientation.

“I attended a Connect2PSU Day and all the hosts were super nice and answered all my questions. They also helped me figure out my registration. Overall I think it was a great experience,” said Yamasato.

Although current times will lead to a start to college that no one expected, some freshmen still remain hopeful for what is ahead.

“If I was asked a year ago about what I’m most excited for in college, it would be making new friends. I think this will be way harder to do now since the COVID situation, but I am still excited to start this new chapter in my life,” said Yamasato.