Tips for Returning to an In-person School Year

When the 2021–22 academic year kicks off, Gordon College will be up and running at a restored pace. Students are coming from a range of scenarios. Some opted for remote learning and made home their classroom, a few took time off from their formal education and others hunkered down for a new on-campus experience. Incoming first-year students are entering college during a period of transition and high school students beginning their college search have new factors to consider. No matter what this past year has held, one thing is true: We are all emerging with lessons learned.

To prepare students from all stages for a school year back on campus, young alumna and Orientation Director Rachel Ghobrial ’16 shares tips to thrive during the transition.

First-year students

“When you’re going through Orientation, come up with one or two things that sound exciting to you and find out how to get involved right away,” says Ghobrial. Even though many opportunities will be presented, it’s up to you to follow up and make them a reality. “Finding those spaces where you can connect is really huge in creating that community that feels comfortable and that place for learning. It’s when you’re in a space that you feel comfortable to learn that you can grow.”

Transfer students

Lean into Transfer Student Orientation. “You already have college experience, but there are new things at Gordon that you’re going to want to learn.” Even though you’ve experienced orientation at another institution, Gordon will be a new environment. And with over 50 transfer students starting this fall, you’ll have plenty of friends along the way who are coming from a similar experience.

Students who studied remotely last year

First, get to know your professors. “It might take some time for you to be able to adapt to being back in classroom but there’s a new depth of learning that you get to have when you have your professor there,” Ghobrial shares. Second, take advantage of what you’ve learned about yourself and apply that to where you are now. “Be smart with your study skills,” she says. “If you learned that you study well in a quiet corner, check out the stacks and the silent reading room.”

If the unusual year was difficult

“Things can change semester to semester. Put in the extra work now to try to make up for some of the things that happened in the past,” says Ghobrial. “But also pace yourself take the time to discern what things you should be involved in instead of getting involved in everything. If you go from zero to a thousand, you’re going to feel some of the burnout.”

Students who took time off

“I would have felt nervous about not having friends or worry that friends feel different because I had been gone,” Ghobrial says. But “college is fluid and friendships are fluid. Don’t be afraid to ask somebody new to go grab coffee.”

Students entering their final year of college

“Fully soak it up,” she advises. Ask yourself what specifically you want to focus on this year. “When you do everything, you don’t fully experience anything,” says Ghobrial. “Be intentional about how you want to spend [your] time because before you know, it’ll be graduation day and you won’t know where your time has gone.”

High school students beginning their college search

Consider what has become important in higher education during the pandemic. “Community is more important than we sometimes give it credit for,” Ghobrial notes. To get a feel for whether a school provides that comforting atmosphere, she recommends visiting campuses in person. “Go visit, go experience and ask a lot of questions.”

Final advice for incoming students

“Get excited because we’re stoked to have you,” says Ghobrial. “This year we get to give you one of the best Orientations yet.”

All students learning at Gordon in the fall can also take advantage of resources like the Academic Success Center and the Counseling Center to ease the transition.