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Wisconsin quadruplets take on 1st year of college — from their childhood home

January 11, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 31.7%. 3 min read.

COVID-19 complicated the transition for all freshmen last year, but especially for students who started their college careers from home. For one family, those complications were multiplied by four.

But the pandemic extended their time together. Helen, a self-described homebody, was the first to decide to live at home while taking some classes online and some in person on Beloit College’s campus. Next came Nick, who, like Helen, has asthma and wanted to be extra cautious.

It was canceled, just like the in-person graduation ceremony their high school previously postponed for late summer. The Forbecks instead watched a slideshow of student photos from their couch in what was a prelude to the quadruplets’ fall semester — lots of family time and lots of screen time. “I always thought my first year of college was going to be new and different things,” Nick said in August, a few weeks before classes began.

It’s going to be weird when we all leave. ”“Did you get that on tape?” Pat jokingly asked in disbelief during a joint phone interview. He was most looking forward to the spring semester when he hoped to finally live on Stout’s campus, a place he’d only ever seen through a screen. The right callThe Forbecks’ fears about campus outbreaks came to fruition at UW-Madison within days of classes starting, reinforcing to Ken that he made the right decision in staying home. He saw on Snapchat how students struggled through a two-week lockdown early in the semester.

By semester’s end, Ken hadn’t set foot on campus at all. How many UW-Madison freshmen started their college careers like Ken is unclear. University Housing reports roughly 84%, or a little over 6,100 students in the freshman class, moved into dorms this fall, down from 92% in the fall of 2019.

But they also know their experience comes with a clock that, for most students, runs out in four years. “What is the campus life supposed to be like in Madison?” Ken asked.

Will we ever return to the ‘normal’ that was in place before all of this started?”Ripple effectsFreshmen faced many of the same struggles in making friends and adjusting to online learning no matter where they lived this fall, said Chris Verhaeghe, an assistant director for UW-Madison’s Center for the First-Year Experience.

When students spend nearly all day in online classes, they don’t want to spend another hour in front of their screens. UW-Madison freshmen survey results six weeks into the semester — at the conclusion of a period researchers say is most critical for the college transition — showed a “significant drop” in student confidence compared to previous years, Verhaeghe said.

Less than half of responding students were very or extremely confident they would succeed in college. “They don’t feel that connection we know they need to feel successful,” he said. Sophomores have never been the center’s focus, but Verhaeghe said discussions are already taking place about how to help this year’s class transition to campus next fall. “The ripple effects of this pandemic on higher ed — it will be years before we return to a ‘regular’ operation,” he said. ‘Going’ to college without a campusFor decades, young adults have flocked to college because of a promise that a degree will get them a good-paying job.

What should he call people he’s only interacted with in online discussion groups and over Snapchat?“We’re trying to make these connections on devices that can only do so much to make up for the life experience,” he said. Nick, Helen and Pat all decided fairly early to continue living at home their spring semester.

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