What Does it Mean to Be a High School Senior During the Coronavirus Pandemic?


Image by Eren Levine.

There is so much we don’t know about COVID-19, in terms of the global situation and the rest of the school year. UNIS will be operating online at least through the end of April, but it seems as though online learning will continue for longer. This means that we will most likely not have much more school together in person, if any at all. During the month of April, seniors typically have a senior ditch day and senior prank day, neither of which are likely to be possible in the same way that they would usually occur.

These events bring school spirit and bonding to the grade, and all the seniors are very sad that we won’t get to experience the traditions in the same way others grades do. Throughout the very difficult two-year IB program, second semester senior year is a kind of oasis for students—something to look forward to as a reward for all our hard work. Having these exciting and fun moments taken away from us, therefore, is more upsetting than it may seem.

The most drastic change for the class of 2020 is the lack of IB exams. The International Baccalaureate Organization posted on their website on March 23rd that the IB exams would no longer take place, but students will still receive their diplomas. This creates many questions and opinions from the entire senior class.

Can we really be happy about receiving IB diplomas when we didn’t even take the exams to deserve them?
It definitely doesn’t feel quite as rewarding. Students, both at UNIS and other IB schools around the world, are very conflicted on how to feel about the exams being cancelled. While some students are relieved and glad to have much less work and stress coming up, others feel that they needed the exams to achieve high IB grades or feel that without taking the exams, we don’t really deserve the IB diplomas.

Ultimately, however, we worked tirelessly for two years, the same way all other grades have, and even though our work won’t culminate with exams, it is nice to have our hard work recognized. Luckily, colleges and universities say they will be flexible and will not blame us for the lack of IB exams, seeing as it is clearly out of our control.

We also don’t know what will happen with prom and graduation. The school is unable to provide information, at no fault of its own, because nothing is certain for the city, let alone our school. The administration assures us that our hard work will be recognized in some way, but could this mean a virtual graduation? There is no doubt that this would not compare to the graduation at the UN General Assembly that other graduating classes have had. There are also discussions about holding a graduation ceremony later in the summer or in December. Each option comes with pros and cons. To hold an online graduation would almost guarantee that everyone could “attend” and even relatives who live far away and were not planning to attend the ceremony could participate. However, we wouldn’t actually be together, and the excitement of getting dressed up, taking pictures with friends, and walking across the stage to receive your diploma would be completely gone. If we held a graduation in the summer or December, we would be together and get to have something more similar to our originally planned graduation, and since we will have been apart for so long, it will be almost like a reunion. On the other hand, not everyone will be able to attend and the excitement of finishing high school won’t be celebrated when it actually happens.

Given the current circumstances and future predictions, it feels like there is no winning when it comes to graduation in the time of Coronavirus.

Everyone is upset and scared about Coronavirus and its repercussions, but high school seniors have unique reasons to feel disappointed. Above anything else, I hope everyone stays healthy and safe, but there is no denying the added level of dismay at losing the last few months of high school.