Final semesters derailed: Iowa City’s High School seniors prepare for life after high school

Due to the spread of COVID-19, high school seniors had their senior year cut short, losing out on their proms, graduations, and other important events. The UI shares how they hope to encourage incoming freshmen for what is to come, amid their discouragement and fears.


Jenna Galligan

High school senior Alex Marsh poses for a portrait outside her home on Saturday, April 11, 2020. Marsh has not yet decided where she will attend school next fall.

Lauren White, News Reporter

The high-school career of many local seniors ended abruptly amid community spread of the novel coronavirus and suspension of in-person learning for the month of April. Without prom, graduation, and some of the life-after-high-school prep they’d receive in their last semesters, many Iowa City high-school seniors are concerned about where life will take them from here.

Iowa City City High senior Alex Marsh said one of the most disappointing results of the cancelation of school by COVID-19 is being unable to gather with family and friends to celebrate graduation.

“The biggest challenge is finding motivation to study for AP tests without the structure of a typical school day. And of course, missing out on all of the memories,” Marsh said. “When I look back I am not going to have a lot of the memories that seniors in the past have had.”

Marsh said that it’s scary to hear about the dangers of the pandemic and what it means around the world, but she is glad that everyone is doing what they can to stay safe and help others out.

“It’s interesting to see how businesses and the economy is functioning during this time,” Marsh said. “I like seeing our friends order takeout from local businesses because it feels like everything is going to be okay.”

School is not let out for the summer quite yet, however. Many students still have to study for AP exams and those who are taking courses through Kirkwood for college credit are still required to participate in class.

According to CollegeBoard, the AP exams for this academic year will be open note and taken on whatever device students have available to them at home. Any students who do not have access to the necessary materials can reach out to CollegeBoard.

As for high-school students that are taking college-credit courses through Kirkwood, the college will allow students to opt for a Pass/No Pass option for their courses.

Jenna Galligan
High school senior Kelby Anderson poses for a portrait outside his home on Saturday, April 11, 2020. Kelby has not yet decided where he will attend college next fall.

Kelby Anderson, an Iowa City City High senior, said he is not required to do any online schooling right now, but his teachers are sending occasional emails of encouragement.

RELATED: UI seniors face the reality of canceled commencement this spring

“I have never really felt ready for college, and I don’t know if this has changed anything,” Anderson said. “None of us are really worried for our health so much as we are really disappointed.”

City High senior Azzurra Sartini-Rideout said she is trying to prepare for the future by remaining open to different possibilities, rather than sticking to one path.

“The situation could be much worse but it’s still important to talk about how you feel and it’s okay to be disappointed,” Sartini-Rideout said. “Most of us are confused about what is going to happen to us.”

Jenna Galligan
Azzurra Sartini-Rideout poses for a portrait outside her home on Saturday, April 11, 2020. Sartini-Rideout plans to attend the University of Iowa.

Most seniors share the common concern of what life after high school will look like for them in fall, no matter where, or if, they decide to pursue a college degree.

Kirk Kluver, UI director of admissions, said his office is currently running business as usual. The UI has created new webinars led by different campus offices and groups, and “Hawkeye Hangouts,” where an admissions counselor leads a Zoom session with non-resident, prospective, and admitted students from similar locations and connects them to each other.

“Typically, in mid-March there are many admission acceptances and housing applications, but instead this year in mid-March, schools were closing and an adjustment period was needed,” Kluver said. “Now that students have settled into being a home, there has not been a change to admission behavior.”

In past years, the deadline for admission and scholarship applications was March 1. At this time, however, Kluver said the UI will continue to receive applications and admit all students who meet the university’s requirements.

“We feel well-accustomed to working in a constantly changing environment,” Kluver said. “It’s important to have good communication and reinforce the next steps.”

The UI will transition traditionally in-person campus orientation sessions online through the end of July, and won’t be scheduling in-person campus visits until further notice — often key events for incoming freshmen to become familiar with campus.

Iowa Board of Regents President Mike Richards has said the regents are planning on a “full, normal operation” of the regent universities in the fall 2020 semester.

The primary concern among incoming students is what it means if their high school will not provide a letter grade for their final semester. This will not have an impact, Kluver said. It will not reflect poorly on students that do not have a letter grade for the spring, he said, and it won’t cause any offers to be retracted.

Jenna Galligan
Sophie Trom poses for a portrait outside her home on Saturday, April 11, 2020. Trom plans to attend Iowa State University.

City High senior Sophie Trom said her, and other seniors are staying home to keep people healthy, but she believes they are still allowed to be disappointed in their canceled senior spring semester.

“I have more nerves than I already had to go off to college, since I don’t have all of the resources I would have had,” Trom said. “But it’s reassuring that high schoolers across the nation are going through the same thing that I am.”

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