Fac­ing mostly on­line cour­ses and tight coro­n­avirus re­stric­tions on cam­pus, some lo­cal stu­dents are opt­ing to stay home for stud­ies — or even de­fer­ring en­roll­ment

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY CLARE PROC­TOR, STAFF RE­PORTER cproc­tor@sun­ | @ce­proc­tor23

Eli Stone, of Lake View, was ready for the “nor­mal col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence” and set to start his fresh­man year this fall at Bran­deis Univer­sity out­side Bos­ton.

But when Bran­deis re­leased its re­open­ing plans, Stone, 18, said he couldn’t imag­ine find­ing new friends or de­vel­op­ing new re­la­tion­ships when he was liv­ing in a sin­gle dorm and taking all his classes on­line. So ear­lier this sum­mer, he de­ferred his en­roll­ment for at least a se­mes­ter.

“If I was go­ing this year, I’d really only have three years of a col­lege ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause I don’t think spring will be nor­mal [ei­ther],” Stone said. “Start­ing col­lege dur­ing a pan­demic would have been really hard for me.”

Faced with al­most com­pletely on­line sched­ules and strict COVID-19 pro­to­col, stu­dents across Chicago who re­al­ize they won’t en­joy the tra­di­tional col­lege cam­pus ex­pe­ri­ence are choos­ing to live at home or de­fer their ed­u­ca­tion al­to­gether. Some stu­dents’ plans have lit­er­ally been up­ended in the past sev­eral days as many uni­ver­si­ties an­nounced fewer and fewer — if any — in-per­son classes and strict rules for liv­ing in the dorms or even be­ing on cam­pus.

Last-minute changes

Up un­til last week, Ariel Hul­fa­chor was plan­ning on mak­ing a cross-coun­try road trip to Santa Clarita to start her fresh­man year at the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of the Arts. Hul­fa­chor, 17, of Ori­ole Park, had al­ready wrapped her head around po­ten­tially liv­ing in a ho­tel room for the fall, since the school’s dorms couldn’t ac­com­mo­date so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines.

When the school an­nounced last week that classes would be com­pletely on­line in the fall, the Whitney Young Mag­net High School grad said she was “dev­as­tated.”

“I was pretty con­vinced I was go­ing be­cause of the na­ture of my ed­u­ca­tion,” said Hul­fa­chor, who’s plan­ning on study­ing fine arts. “I didn’t think it would be pos­si­ble for me to do it with­out their fa­cil­i­ties or in-per­son in­struc­tion.”

The fine arts cur­ricu­lum typ­i­cally in­volves us­ing the school’s ma­te­ri­als and machin­ery to com­plete projects, Hul­fa­chor said. In­stead, she will take her fall cour­ses on­line while in Chicago and is dis­ap­pointed know­ing many of her classes will be lec­ture-style in­stead, she said.

Hul­fa­chor said she’s hop­ing the school could have in-per­son classes in the spring, though she’s not get­ting her hopes up.

Fu­ture plans in flux

At 27 years old, Danielle Di Sil­ve­stro isn’t a tra­di­tional in­com­ing col­lege fresh­man. Hav­ing al­ready re­ceived a psy­chol­ogy de­gree from Roo­sevelt Univer­sity, Di Sil­ve­stro is go­ing back to school for mu­sic pro­duc­tion this fall at Full Sail Univer­sity in Win­ter Park, Florida.

“In my head, I want to move down there yes­ter­day be­cause I just want to be among the stu­dents,” said Di Sil­ve­stro, of Ar­ca­dia Ter­race on the North Side. “But what’s go­ing on now in Florida is scary.”

Di Sil­ve­stro had al­ready told friends she was mov­ing to the Or­lando area for school. But now, she’ll be com­plet­ing fall se­mes­ter on­line from Chicago.

Even those plans are sub­ject to change, Di Sil­ve­stro said.

“Right now, my plan is to start on­line in Septem­ber and then be six months on­line — that’s the plan as of to­day,” Di Sil­ve­stro said. “A big part of me is like, ‘Why don’t I just de­fer un­til things set­tle down a bit?’ ”

Go­ing to work

In­stead of go­ing to school this fall, Stone, who de­ferred his ad­mis­sion to Bran­deis, will be work­ing as a cam­paign man­ager for Sarah Ya­coub, who’s run­ning for the Wis­con­sin State As­sem­bly. Stone worked on eight other po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns in high school and hopes to work in Chicago pol­i­tics after he grad­u­ates.

Stone al­ready said good­bye to some of his high school friends as they leave for col­lege, he said, mak­ing it “kind of hard” not start­ing school at the same time as his peers.

Whether he goes to Bran­deis in the spring or waits a full year be­fore start­ing col­lege is a de­ci­sion Stone is wait­ing to make un­til after Novem­ber’s elec­tion, he said.

“If they say it’ll be com­pletely nor­mal in the spring, which is un­likely, I’ll prob­a­bly go [to Bran­deis],” Stone said. “But so­cially and aca­dem­i­cally, it might be eas­ier to start next year.”


Eli Stone, 18, de­ferred his en­roll­ment at Bran­deis Univer­sity out­side Bos­ton for at least a se­mes­ter.


Eli Stone de­ferred his en­roll­ment at Bran­deis Univer­sity out­side Bos­ton.

Ariel Hul­fa­chor

Danielle Di Sil­ve­stro

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