After completing the spring semester and a summer internship online, Sonya Pfitzenmaier said she was tired of staring at screens.
On June 1, UT announced that less than 4% of courses would convert to an online only format.
“UT said most of the classes are going to be in person, so I kind of believed that,” chemical engineering junior Pfitzenmaier said. “But then I checked MyUT, and all my classes were online.”
When it was announced there would be online, hybrid and in-person modes on June 29, Pfitzenmaier decided to take the fall semester off, or defer. As of August 11, UT’s fall reopening plan includes 60.7% online, 23.6% hybrid and 15.7% in-person classes.
Pfitzmaier isn’t alone in her decision, but in an email, Kathleen Harrison, communications manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost said UT will not know how many students deferred for the semester until Sept. 11, the twelfth day of class.
“Generally, current deferments appear small and consistent with past years,” Harrison said in an email.
Ali Shirazi, government and rhetoric and writing junior, is also deferring this semester because of COVID-19 related class changes.
“My education (isn’t) going to be worth it if I'm taking online courses, and also, I anticipate the pandemic to get even worse in the fall,” Shirazi said.
After realizing four out of five of his fall classes had shifted to online instruction only, Shirazi said he talked with his parents, who said he could defer the semester under the condition that he get a job.
This fall, Shirazi will be working in Austin as a Voter Expansion Coordinator with the Texas Democratic Party. He said his only regret is that he will be graduating later than expected.
“It isn’t ideal but it's a sacrifice that I'm willing to (make) and I think it’s best (for) my future,” Shirazi said. “I want to get the most out of college, because ultimately (it’s) an investment and I don't want to just walk through and get it done with.”
Pfitzenmaier said she is ahead enough in her degree plan and can still graduate on time even with deferring the fall semester. Now, she will be doing volunteer conservation work at national parks in Utah with the AmeriCorps program.
She said she sometimes wonders if she made the right decision.
“It’s weird to not go to school for a semester,” Pfitzenmaier said. “I wish it could go back to a normal semester, but since that's not really an option, this is the next best option.”
She said she is excited to start her volunteer work but is sad she won’t get to see her friends in Austin for a few months.
“There were a few days when everyone was moving in and I was like, ‘Aw, I wish that were me,’ but luckily when I'm doing this job out in national parks there’s no WiFi, so I won’t really be seeing what I'm missing out on,” Pfitzenmaier said.
Shirazi said students who are unsure if they want to defer the semester should follow their intuition.
“It's rough for everyone and the entire world is kind of on pause, even though we're trying to progress,” Shirazi said. “But do what's best for you, even if it is inconvenient.”