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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2023

Has the class of 2026 been patient zero for pandemic learning?

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The class of 2026 is alive and well on Mercer’s campus however, according to the Associated Press (AP), they may fall short of previous graduate classes. This begs the question: How much has the pandemic impacted learning?

According to the AP, “an increasing number of high school students failed to meet any of the subject-area benchmarks set by the ACT — showing a decline in preparedness for college-level coursework."

Nearly 42% of ACT test takers within the class of 2022 failed to meet any of the subject benchmarks, which according to The AP can be indicative of how well the students are expected to perform in their future first-year college courses. 

According to Mercer’s first-year admission website, the class of 2026 entered with an average of a 23-29 ACT score and an 1180-1320 SAT score, which according to Mercer’s Senior Director of Academic Services, Tony Kemp, falls about average in comparison to the previous graduation classes. 

“Like there was nothing that I thought ‘Oh my gosh look at what the pandemic did.’ It was kind of business as usual,” said Kemp.

Kemp also said that grades and usage of student resources are also falling this year in comparison to others. However, he says attendance is a different story. 

“The biggest thing we see at the 4-week point, believe it or not," he said. "And I still think about it every year and think, 'You have got to be kidding,' but it's true."

However, despite the AP’s concerning report, Beth Ijeoma '26, says that she does not feel unprepared for college or that the pandemic has left a lasting impression on their learning capabilities. 

Ijeoma, a chemistry major, said that she feels she is doing well academically. 

“So far, I think I'm doing really well," she said. "I think the professors are really supportive, and they help students who may need a little bit more help. For me, I feel like, from high school, I’ve acquired habits that I’ve taken on with me to college to help me academically."

Not all freshmen feel the same way. Public health major Alesa Hill '26 said adjusting from virtual to in-person classes has definitely posed its challenges.  

“It is kind of tough in that it's harder doing things on paper. For some classes, I have to do things on actual paper in a classroom and I’m like, ‘Oh my god.' This is kind of a foreign experience to me because I’ve been doing things online for a while,” Hill said. “It's more about adjusting to the medium I’m taking my classes in than it being difficult material-wise.” 

Neuroscience major Ayanna Bandoh '26 said she can see the impacts long-term virtual learning has had on some of her peers, especially when it comes to grades.

“I’d say it was a bit of a struggle, and I guess I kind of see it," Bandoh said. "We got an essay back today actually and people were surprised with their grades, like a pretty good chunk."

Rest assured, first-years: if you are feeling overwhelmed with approaching finals or difficulty in any of your classes, Kemp advises students to take advantage of the help professors offer, such as office hours, and to feel welcome to visit the Office of Student Success.


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