Over the last few weeks, America’s elite colleges and universities have been announcing their reopening strategies one by one, weighing explicit health imperatives against implicit economic ones. Most have landed on a disappointing-but-realistic conclusion: The fall semester of 2020 will have to involve an alloy of in-person and remote learning. Many college students will experience only an attenuated version of campus life — if they get to experience it at all.
It’s easy to see what they will lose in this situation. The intoxicating pleasures of independence. The stimulation of late-night conversation about life, meaning, and the universe. The pure exhilaration (and relief) of finding your own kind.
But let’s face it: It’s pretty luxurious to have these experiences in the first place. Perhaps it’s worth discussing what these luckiest of students might also gain at this moment. Because they do stand to gain. It just requires that they reimagine what late adolescence is for, and what it should be about.