Covid and College – This Mom’s Perspective of a Challenging Freshman Year

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Being a mom has its struggles. Being a mom of a college student- especially right now – feels near impossible.

My heart ached when I found out just how hard a time my daughter was having in her first semester at college. I homeschooled her from 4th grade through graduation, and she had taken dual enrollment (DE) courses, so she’d had some experience with the online/Zoom format. But college is a whole different animal.

I teach DE for the local community college, and this semester my high school classes were face-to-face for a while and via Zoom two other times during the semester because of quarantine issues. Those students are young, and I understand they need a bit more help and intervention during all of this.

But let me put it this way – not all college instructors are willing to help or offer grace. And they should (that’s a whole other blog post!).

college student on green campus wearing a mask
Photo by Paul Siewert on Unsplash

Pandemic college learning

My daughter is a freshman in college. She was born right after 9/11 and graduated high school during a pandemic. To say our college kids are having a rough time is an understatement. And I couldn’t help mine.

Because here’s the thing: once your child is in college, you as mom are no longer welcome to intervene. As a college instructor, I’m actually not allowed to talk to mom or dad.

Who teaches college kids how to fly during a pandemic?

My daughter’s experience

My daughter took an online math class where her professors did very little to help her or work with her. When my elderly mother-in-law (who lived with us) had a heart attack, my kiddo happened to be home and stayed for that week until her granny got out of the hospital. She communicated with her professors and stayed up with her schoolwork.

Then, one weekend she came home to see her BFF, and my husband was subsequently diagnosed with Covid. So she was stuck at home for 3 weeks (2 from the college she went to and an extra from the county her college was in). A select few of her professors understood and worked with her. But her math class professor did not.

She came home the weekend before she was supposed to at Thanksgiving time. Her choice, definitely! And she did her schoolwork and stayed in contact with her instructors.

That week, her granny died. When my daughter asked for an extension on a math exam because her grandmother passed, she was told this “wasn’t high school” and “we do not give extensions or extra credit.” How crazy is that?

As a mom, this angered me to hear. But as a teacher? I was furious! If our students communicate with us about what is going on at home, shouldn’t we give them some grace?

Advantages and disadvantages of pandemic learning

I asked her what the advantages of pandemic college learning were. She side-eyed me and said, “None.” However, after talking a little more, I did get some good things about learning through this pandemic.


  • Sleeping in
  • Staying in bed for class
  • Faster answers to emails and questions
  • Seeing professors close up (Zoom) and making eye contact (sometimes)
  • Grace for missing class (sometimes)


  • Little to no face-to-face interaction
  • Some teachers don’t know how to teach online or on Zoom
  • LOTS of homework and assignments
  • Missed class a lot (less incentive to attend)
two college students wearing masks at a desk
Photo by Mira Kireeva on Unsplash

My perspective

It was hard for me when my daughter left for college. This wasn’t my first time doing it – we have four other kids who are grown and flown as they say. Because of Covid, though, it’s not like our kid could come home every weekend. The college didn’t encourage that and for good reason. Because her classes were so time-consuming and she was so stressed, we barely had time to talk. She had her own life, and I just had to deal with that.

Online, hybrid, and distance learning were really hard for my kid. Being the mama bear I am, I wanted to fix it all. But there was nothing I could do. How was I supposed to just sit back and observe?

I tried to encourage her as much as I could. My daughter told me I helped her, which was appreciated, but could I do more? She has been here her whole life, and I’ve been her teacher for years. Now I just have to let someone else do it.

What I’ve learned

Here’s the thing: I cannot live my daughter’s life, and I can actually no longer make everything an easy experience. As a mom, I want to be my kids’ safe place, and that is fine.

But the truth is, letting my kids (all of them) live and learn is the best thing for them AND for me. We all have to experience hardship and difficult, challenging things. That is how we learn. That is how we grow.

The week after the funeral was finals week, and my daughter was diagnosed with Covid. I’m so proud of this kid though. She pulled all As and one D (math of course), and she made the Dean’s list! I might wish that her freshman year didn’t start during a pandemic, but I know that my daughter will be stronger and smarter because of it.

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Jennifer Dodrill
Jen Dodrill is a Navy brat from a long line of Navy brats. Born in Virginia, she moved to the Florida panhandle in 6th grade. After vowing to never date a Navy guy, she moved to Nashville, TN where she met and fell in love with Eddie who was - you guessed it - in the delayed-entry-program for the Navy. They met in June, married the following February, and over 35 years later are still sweethearts. They moved back to West Tennessee in 2008 after his retirement. Jen stayed home to raise their 5 kids, and she homeschooled the youngest three. The “baby” graduated in 2020, but Jen refuses to bow to empty-nest syndrome! She teaches Oral Communication as an adjunct instructor for Dyersburg State Community College and blogs at Jen Dodrill History at Home. Jen also writes curriculum under History at Home at TeachersPayTeachers and Boom Learning! When she’s not working, she’s spending time with her kids and adorable granddaughters. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her favorite place – Pinterest! You can also visit her site "History at Home" at