On National Decision Day, CPS seniors look forward to the future, but worry about missing another milestone

Chicago Public School students say they are juggling feelings of excitement with those of uncertainty.

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Students at Jones College Prep are posting their college plans on Instagram.

After a difficult senior year upended by forces outside of their control, Chicago Public Schools students are being cautiously optimistic about heading off to college.

As National Decision Day arrived Friday, traditionally the deadline to commit to a school, the students said they were juggling feelings of excitement with those of uncertainty.

On social media accounts, students proudly shared photos of themselves with their school choice, and friends and family cheered them on and congratulated them in the comments section.

“I know you’ll work hard and be successful!” one wrote to Rami Assaf, 18, a Jones College Prep student who plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on an Instagram account dedicated to his fellow seniors.

“Congrats, Diego” another wrote to Lane Tech College Prep student Diego Lucero, who plans to attend DePaul. “A legend,” wrote another.

Still, the day, like other milestones this year, was bittersweet for many seniors.

“I’m sad about how my senior year ended,” said Lauren Moy, a Jones College Prep senior who is planning to attend U. of I. downstate. “But now I’m excited to be able to go and do my own thing. I’m hoping this gets better by August.”

Jones College Prep senior Lauren Moy, 17, appears in a post on Instagram announcing she’ll be enrolling at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall.

Jones College Prep senior Lauren Moy, 17, appears in a post on Instagram announcing she’ll be enrolling at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall.

Instagram

She wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the school were to announce that her first semester would be held at least partially remotely.

“I feel like, I know I’ll get my independence eventually,” she said. “But I’d still be disappointed.”

Moy said she was also a little concerned about what it will be like on campus and living in the dorms, considering she never got a chance to tour the school.

Fewer new students commit to UIC so far

Kevin Browne, vice provost for academic and enrollment services at U. of I.’s Chicago campus, said a lot of students are in a similar situation.

“They didn’t have the senior year they expected and a lot of them are confused,” Browne said.

About 2,000 fewer students have told the university they’ll be attending in the fall compared to this time last year. Browne attributed that to the school’s move to extend the deadline to June 1 this year to give students more time to decide. But a higher rate of current students have already said they’ll be back, which could be a positive sign for many universities worried about a drop in enrollment for the fall semester.

Browne acknowledged it’s still unclear what campuses and classes will look like in the fall. That might mean some or all classes are held online, or it could mean that schools will be able to return to something close to normal.

“It’s hard because we’re asking students to commit to us without knowing what they can expect the experience will be like,” he said.

Lane Tech College Prep senior Diego Lucero, 17, in an announcement shared in an Instagram post that he’s headed to DePaul University in the fall.

Lane Tech College Prep senior Diego Lucero, 17, in an announcement shared in an Instagram post that he’s headed to DePaul University in the fall.

Instagram

Lucero, 17, said he was worried on Friday about starting college if shelter-in-place orders continue in the fall.

“A big part of the experience for me will be living on campus, learning how to live independently and being around other students,” he said.

If DePaul’s campus remains closed, he said he would consider trying to delay starting college by a semester or even a year.

Browne said he’s heard similar thoughts from other students who are unsure about starting school next fall.

“I worry about losing those students and not getting them back,” Browne said of students who end up waiting to enroll.

Jones College Prep senior Rami Assaf, 18, appears in a post on Instagram Friday announcing his decision to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall.

Jones College Prep senior Rami Assaf, 18, appears in a post on Instagram Friday announcing his decision to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall.

Instagram

Staying on track

Assaf, 18, who plans to attend U. of. I on a pre-med track, said he will start classes next semester regardless of how they are offered.

“I’m very concerned about the fall,” he said. “But my future plans are very aggressive and I want to stay on track with my schedule.”

Still, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be disappointed.

“The in-person experience, being able to ask questions or collaborate with someone next to you is really important,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to have [a high school] graduation or a prom ... but your first step into college is a milestone.”

And that’s one he doesn’t want to miss.

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