COVID-19 learning leads students to consider semester, year extensions

(Archive photo illustration by Dalton Wainscott I Collegian Media Group).

Going to classes, learning new things about careers, making memories with friends and exploring the university’s town is what going to college is all about. However, once the pandemic hit, many of those things were off the table.

Even now that most are back in the swing of life, some Kansas State students feel they’ve missed out on their full college experience. Vital aspects of in-person learning were stripped from education, leading some to consider taking a fifth year to make up for the lost time.

“[COVID-19] began my second semester of my sophomore year, so I was definitely not ready for the change from in-person classes to online,” Jordan Brandel, senior in sociology, said. “The online semesters were kind of difficult for me.”

Kyle Ruder, senior in mass communications, decided to add an extra semester to his undergraduate degree when summer internship opportunities fell through because of COVID-19. He will now graduate this May.

“I was originally planning on graduating here in December, and then when internships got cut the summer of COVID-19 and we had to have the internship in order to graduate, that pushed me back to where certain scholarships wouldn’t apply to summer classes,” Ruder said. “So, I couldn’t finish in the three and a half years that I planned on doing. … I kind of figured, why not take some classes in the spring and take a light nine- or ten-hour semester.”

The Office of Student Success and Office of Institutional Research and Assessment showed in their most recent graduation rate data that it is too soon to tell what impacts COVID-19 will have on graduation rates for the university as a whole.

Some K-State students argue the chaos of trying to keep schools open while also learning how to handle the situation on the go might have hindered the quality of classes. The lack of personal interaction with professors and classmates — as well as hands-on learning — left some students feeling unsatisfied.

“While I liked some aspects of being online, it was very also very stressful,” Brandel said. “I felt like classes were not very organized. One of the big things I struggled with was feeling like I didn’t actually learn anything. I felt like I was just completing everything that was due but not learning anything from it.”

Adding a fifth year to her undergraduate degree crossed Brandel’s mind as a solution to fill in the gaps.

“Feeling like this led me to think about maybe taking another semester or two,” Brandel said. “Once I saw my adviser and talked about the amount of classes and hours I had left, I ended up deciding against it. I felt like even though it has been hard, I should just try and push through.”

Even though Brandel feels somewhat resolved with her decision to continue with her four years, the negatives of the pandemic still impact her.

“Overall, I think COVID really messed a lot of things up for everyone,” Brandel said.

Ruder said he felt like he was going through feelings of excitement and disappointment on the future to come and the closing of his college career.

“There are some people I’m friends with that are like, ‘Why not add a minor or pick up a sales certificate and add another semester?’ since we kind of missed out on a couple semesters of being a regular college student,” Ruder said. “But … now I’m getting ‘senioritis,’ so I am a little bit ready to be done with the school aspect, but maybe not the aspect of being on campus, because it’s been nice seeing people walking on campus and being in class.”