Wantagh Class of 2020 Interview with Harvard Freshman Julia Wilkinson 

Mckenzie Post, Associate Editor

With the way things ended so abruptly last school year for students, the people that took the hardest hit were the Class of 2020 Seniors. The last fun school trips, prom and dances, sports games, and even just normalcy for the final year of their high school career was taken away from them due to the raging pandemic that swept through the world and our nation. 


I wanted to hear about the experience of the last couple of months of the previous school year from a Wantagh 2020 grad and her current situation as a freshman in college. Immediately, my attention turned to Julia Wilkinson, who now is attending one of the most prestigious schools in the world, Harvard University for the class of 2024. I originally tried to schedule a virtual meet, but both of our schedules were too packed and conflicting, especially when one of us is

going to Harvard! 


I messaged Julia the questions on a Tuesday night and got some very interesting and insightful answers that could give some perspective into the life of a Harvard student and a former Wantagh High School senior who had her last couple of months taken away. 


I began with my first question: “Firstly, congrats on Harvard! What was the biggest impact COVID had on the end of your senior year, and your process of successfully getting into a college?”

Julia said, “Thank you so much! COVID had a big impact on the end of my senior year. Thankfully, my college process was already done at that point and I was already committed. However, I had friends who were in the midst of it and I felt for them as the process is stressful enough already…Who needs a pandemic on top of that? I think the biggest thing COVID took away from our senior year was closure. We didn’t have time to say goodbye to our teachers, prom, senior barbecue, yearbook signings, last day of school, proper graduation. Although these things are minuscule in retrospect to the atrocities that the virus has caused, they are meaningful and were missed by the class of 2020.”


Those simple little things like yearbook signings and saying goodbye to teachers are so important and vital to the closure of senior year and students’ K-12 school career. The day so many dreamed of— graduation— was also not what people expected. There still was an event where students walked and received their diplomas, but it couldn’t compare to hearing your name called and standing up in front of the people in your class, people you’ve known for most of your years, and feeling that once in a lifetime moment of graduating high school and moving on to the next chapter and closing that major one.


With the new chapter opening for many students by going to college, I asked Julia: “How was your transition to colleges, and what were some obstacles you faced along the way?”


She said, “Overall, my transition to college has been untraditional but at the same time, great! I think Harvard is doing a good job of recognizing this is a very unusual situation that newly emancipated 18-year-olds definitely need some help getting through. Some obstacles that I faced were being a bit homesick as this is my first time being away from home for an extended period, meeting new people in the world when we cannot go inside of buildings to meet and congregate and we are taking classes completely online, and overcoming isolation. The precautionary measures put in place here are there for a reason and can be attributed to why our case count is so low. However, not being able to go into the dining hall to sit and eat, not being able to sit down in a lecture and meet a new friend ne

xt to you, not being able to go to the gym and let off some steam, not being able to have a movie night with the people you met in the class, etc. made me honestly feel pretty scared the first few days I was here. However, I quickly realized that everyone was in the same spot and that we just had to make it work…and that we did! I am so grateful to have met amazing friends from very different walks of life than me!”. 


Even reading her responses, you can sense how intelligent and well-spoken she is with her answers to the questions. They are so thoughtful, and you get to hear her perspective and point of view of the past few months and the start of a new chapter. To tap into the more emotional aspect so many seniors faced last year, I asked her:  “What are your feelings surrounding how your senior year ended?”


Julia explains “I feel very disappointed about the end of our senior year. Even now, as a freshman in college, I feel like my time at Wantagh High School is unfin

ished, and that is sad. I met some of my best friends and had the most amazing teachers, some of whom I will know for a long time exceeding the halls of WHS. I think my classmates and I worked really hard throughout our four years there to set ourselves up for success in the future, and I think we are all ready to take a step back in a sense and reflect on our years at Wantagh. Being unable to do that was sad for me. Also, I would’ve loved to thank my teachers because they

are what make Wantagh so special.” 


Julia’s insightful answers have a sense of melancholy to them left with some sadness of the way things ended of course, but grateful for her years, her teachers, and her friends. With the impact of the global pandemic, I wanted to ask her: “How are you dealing with your current situation in college? Are there any restrictions in place and what is the “new normal” for your experience?”

She said, “Leaving home and moving to a completely new city by yourself for the first time is monumental on its own. Adding the coronavirus on top of this has made this transition tricky,  but still doable. It’s comforting to know that everyone is in the same situation and also yearns to make friends and meaningful connections their first year at school, even if it is not what we expected the school year to look like. There are a lot of restrictions in place for the right reasons and our case count is so low due to them. I think that a good attitude is a key to making this first semester positive. Of course, there are a lot of things that have been “taken from us” but instead, I choose to look at the fact that we are blessed to still have the ability to come to campus and learn at such a tumultuous time in the world. Even if a situation isn’t perfect and what we expected, there is still good to be learned and extracted from this experience. Also, always keeping things in perspective in regards to the fact that this is a deadly virus that has done a lot more than switch us to Zoom classes rather than in-person learning. Peopl

e have lost the ones that are closest to them. So, when I wake up and realize that it does stink, yes, that I have to open my computer and log into Zoom for my economics instead of sitting in a beautiful lecture hall with 500 eager students, there are people that wake up with worse news than that.” 


The last line from her answer really made me think about perspective and the millions of people were truly impacted by this pandemic all around the world. It helps in remembering that things happen outside of our own little bubbles, and so many of us should remain grateful for what we do have today. With many lacking in exercise during quarantine, I heard that Julia was a big sports star here at Wantagh by playing lacrosse and basketball among other activities. I asked he

r: “I’ve heard that you play sports; with the circumstances are you still playing/training?”


Julia responded, “Towards the beginning of the year, I found a public track and I would go and work out there. It was quite nice because it actually was one place that I could actually go to and incorporate into my everyday schedule. However, about two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to try out for the softball team here [at Harvard]. Now that I am on the team, we practice four days a week and lift three days a week. It has been an amazing experience and one that I am so blessed to be a part of. My teammates and coaches are fantastic people and the sport itself has reintroduced c

ompetition and athletic structure back into my life.”


Imagine playing softball for Harvard! As I closed out the interview, I wanted to ask her something important in regards to seniors and all students finishing their high school experience in light of the pandemic and drastic changes. I messaged her: “What advice would you give to seniors for their last few months of high school, keeping in mind what the Class of 2020 lost?”


She said, “The biggest thing I would say is to live in the moment and appreciate what you have when you have it. There is a lot of uncertainty in our world in many different ways right now and that sense of insecurity has made me cherish the people, places, and activities that I take part in a lot more than I otherwise would have. When School first got canceled for a duration of two weeks I saw it as an opportunity to surf more than I would have and catch up on some books that I had been wanting to read. A mini vacation, right? Who would’ve thought that that woul

d’ve been the last time I would ever walk through the halls of Wantagh high school. I carry that feeling with me every day; I try to live in the moment and recognize how lucky I really am. This virus is a terrible thing, but, at the same time, it is something to which we can learn a tremendous amount.”


And with that, a new outlook is cast on my life and my year. I realized we need to make the best of our situation and live our lives to the best of our ability and this pandemic is just a minor setback. Julia’s message is inspiring to anyone going through difficulties during this time, especially the seniors with their last year of high school and missing out on key experiences. Julia’s words capture the spirit and the optimism for life that some people need to hear, so keep an eye out for Julia Wilkinsonshe will do many great things.