Last year of college has felt ‘incomplete’ for University of Iowa seniors

As the class of 2021 prepares for their time at the University of Iowa to come to an end, some seniors say that spending their last year of college online has left some seniors feeling a lack of closure on their Hawkeye careers.


Ben Smith

A Herky statue with a “PHIL Was Here” sash stands on the Pentacrest on Monday, April 24. Beginning in 2012, the UI launched PHIL Was Here to celebrate philanthropy at the university.

Lily Rosen Marvin, News Reporter

Senior Savannah DeGroot plans to head to their aunt’s house in Des Moines for graduation day. They’ll put on their cap and gown and grab some breakfast. When their name comes across the TV screen, they’ll stand up, flip their tassel, and be done with their undergraduate experience at the University of Iowa.

“Last year when all the graduation ceremonies were moved online, I remember me and a bunch of friends were like ‘I’m so glad I’m not graduating this year,’” DeGroot said. “I think this year is a little different because we knew it was coming, but it definitely sucks to not have our graduation ceremonies in person. I mean, ceremonies are ceremonies for a reason. They have meaning for a reason.”

In addition to a virtual commencement, the UI will host an in-person celebration at Kinnick Stadium on May 16.

DeGroot said they didn’t plan attend the in-person ceremony because the initial two-ticket limit was an issue for their family, and they’ll be out of town.

When UI senior Paisley Meegan’s classes moved online at the start of the pandemic, she said she was hopeful that things would be back to normal by spring 2021. Now, with her undergraduate experience ending, Meegan said she’s disappointed to close out her college years virtually. For each of the last three semesters, more than 70 percent of undergraduate course hours were online.

“I didn’t feel like I would be as disappointed come this time of year because I had over a year to emotionally prepare myself for it,” she said. “But now that this time of year has come around, I kind of wish things were still happening — even little things, like the School of Social Work does a small party and families can come and meet the professors. I’m kind of disappointed that didn’t happen.”

After a year of remote classes and social distancing, UI senior Lauren Barlow said her last year of college has felt anticlimactic. Barlow, who is graduating a year early, will have spent half of her undergraduate experience online.

“[Graduating] doesn’t feel real yet,” she said. “I’m a student in the College of Public Health, so it’s a really big community that I’m used to. It was weird for my last year here to not have that, and to feel like I’m having a lot more of a depersonalized experience.”

DeGroot said they have also felt disconnected from their communities of friends, co-workers, and student organizations in their last year of college. They added that one of the biggest disappointments of this year was not having the goodbyes that seniors normally get.

“The thing about it being my senior year is I missed so many lasts,” DeGroot said. “Your last time visiting XYZ’s office, your last meeting, your last time doing this or that. I experienced a lot of my ‘lasts’ in undergraduate, without even knowing it.”

DeGroot said the lack of in person experiences over the past year has made the end of their undergraduate experience feel incomplete.

“Everybody always talks about being online as being a temporary thing,” DeGroot said. “But this is a very permanent thing. You will always have graduated from college. That’s not something that changes when the online world stops happening. So, I think there are definitely some feelings of awkward closure.”

Meegan said, even though this year may not have been what she imagined it would be, she looks forward to reconnecting with friends and celebrating her accomplishments before her time as an undergraduate student is over.

“Because everything has been virtual, it can feel like it’s not as big of an accomplishment or like it’s not that big of a deal,” she said. “But I think being able to mark the occasion in these next few weeks and celebrate my accomplishments over the last four years is something I’m looking forward to.”