With the school year slowly coming to an end, seniors have to make a very important decision that will most likely change their lives: where to live after graduation. It’s no secret that moving out is a step towards freedom and independence, but the current pandemic has made choices even more difficult than before.
“I plan on staying on campus in a dorm. I think it is such an amazing opportunity to be able to have your own space outside of the one your family has you,” Bella Armstrong said. “I want to be far enough away to where I can start my own life and grow my wings a bit, but my family is just a short plane ride away.”
Many students seem to struggle with making a definitive decision about after graduation more than ever in recent years due to the strain of the pandemic.
“It is a hard decision because I do not know exactly what I want to study yet, and because of quarantine, I have not been able to tour the schools I have wanted to,” Armstrong said. “I am hoping that I will be able to make the best choice for me possible in the next few months.”
Many students who originally wished to go out of state have turned to stay in-state, feeling uncomfortable and unsafe to make a big move during this time.
“I am applying to several schools in Florida,” Armstrong said. “[But] my top choice college is in-state, about 6 hours away from here.”
Students who are attending out of state colleges have the option to dorm or rent near campus, but concerns of being separated from family and being exposed to other strangers are making the transition difficult.
“I am leaning more towards out of state colleges, but I have yet to pick a school,” Christine Stewart said. “I want to live on campus in a dorm for my first year, and most of the colleges I have gotten accepted to say they plan to only have that option for the 2021-2022 school year for freshmen.”
Colleges have recently implemented new safety precautions and guidelines to keep students and staff safe, but it does not completely ease the tension and worry of many.
“I feel like COVID has heightened my stress of picking a college,” Stewart said. “I want to live somewhere that is taking covid precautions seriously.”
While the majority of students seek to attend colleges after high school, some students like Madison Harke made a different decision and have committed to joining the military fresh out of graduation.
“Military has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but I was always kind of unsure if I was able to do it,” Harke said. “But that changed when I came to Plano West, and my best friend really built up my confidence in joining, and helped me lose weight in order to fully enlist. I really have her to thank for being where I am today, honestly.”
Although joining the military was something Harke was serious about, it took a bit of convincing to get the rest of her family on board with the idea.
“Choosing to go military right after graduation was actually kind of hard for me and my family,” Harke said. “My mom wanted me to go straight to college in order to really think about if the military was what I wanted and to get a taste of freedom and independence before I made that big of a commitment to something.”
Since Harke showed determination and devotion of her seriousness about joining the military, a small promise with her mother sealed the deal for officially enlisting.
“I knew deep down that the military was something I needed to do first,” Harke said. “We made an agreement for me to go to the army reserves first and get my education once I was back from basic training and AIT (advanced individual training).”
Slightly different from college dorms, going to military training did raise some questions and concerns for living situations during the pandemic.
“At basic, I will be in a giant room with my unit with bunk beds against the walls,” Harke said. “Now at AIT, I will have a room much like a college dorm room with 2-3 others who are in the same MOS (job title) as me, and once I am home, I plan to stay home and work until I leave for college.”
Regardless of whether seniors are aiming for attending college or enlisting straight away, it does not change the fact that the pandemic has slightly raised concerns for their future living situations.
“I have realized that life is short and can change in an instant, so I have to be willing to take risks and do the scary things in order for my life to be what I want it to be,” Armstrong said. “I want to go away to school. I want to grow. And I can not let COVID interfere with that.”