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I am an AdviseMI adviser serving at Port Huron Northern High School in St. Clair County. Advising students during a pandemic has certainly resulted in some challenges. The most significant difficulty I have experienced has been inconsistency in the academic schedule, namely, a switch to virtual learning. Before the pandemic, school was structured so students and faculty knew what to expect day to day, or even for most of the school year. The transition to virtual learning was necessary to slow the spread of the virus, but it created a disconnect between students and faculty.

The challenges of adapting to virtual learning and communication, in addition to stress, caused many students to burn out quickly and lose motivation in other pursuits, like preparing for postsecondary education. Reduced online class time meant I could not easily speak with students and advise them during school hours. I usually met with them via Zoom once class was over, or tried to find a time they were caught up, so we could talk. When the school system decided to resume a hybrid in-person/virtual learning schedule, it became easier to meet with students one on one. Even better, I’ve been able visit classrooms and talk with students as a group.

Despite the challenges, there have been successes this year. I’ve maintained student engagement throughout the pandemic as much as possible. When the students are attending school in person, they are more than happy to meet with me and discuss any college-related topics they are confused about, or on which they need a second opinion. Even with all the confusion and uncertainty, AdviseMI advisers have kept the discussion around continuing education alive and at the forefront of students’ minds. We are just as excited as we were in past years, and can't wait for students to move on to the next step in their educational paths. In addition, colleges and universities have been more than willing to assist any student I have sent their way, and I am grateful for that.

Challenges resulting from the pandemic have been tough to overcome, but after a year of instructional changes, I think this pandemic has taught us new techniques to get students involved whether they are in or out of school.