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'Excited for the normalcy': Mercer University prepares for incoming class

The first day of class for Mercer Students is August 24.

MACON, Ga. — If you were in college anytime between March of 2020 and now -- it's safe to say that things were different.     

As guidelines are starting to loosen up, schools are preparing to welcome students to campus safely, but make sure they still get that college experience that has been missing this past year.

"My first year got cut short due to the pandemic," Justin Henry said. "The entire situation was super stressful for me." 

"The biggest difficulty was the uncertainty," Emily Juarez Salas said.

Henry and Juarez Salas both started their first year of college, right before the pandemic hit. 

They began their freshman year in the classroom, and ended it on their computers.

"It was super weird, because it's something that you're not really used to," Juarez Salas said.

Fast forward to their sophomore year...

"All of our classes were socially distanced. Whether you were in a huge lecture or a smaller course, you still had six feet between you and every single person in the classroom," Juarez Salas said.

"We had social distancing, masking policies, all of that," Henry said.

The school offered COVID-19 vaccines and testing for their students, families, and staff members.

As Henry and Juarez Salas come up on their junior year of college, they're able to communicate without masks, and without social distancing.

They say this is normal compared to what they've adjusted to this past year.

"We believe very much in the residential undergraduate experience and we promised our students that's what we will have, and we're going to do that safely," Doctor Penny Elkins, Senior Vice President for enrollment management at Mercer, said.

Elkins says they will still require surveillance testing, and evaluating students health as they come in.

"This year, as of today, we're of course watching things very closely, following the science and the data, but as of today the mask requirement is only for unvaccinated individuals" Elkins said.

"I'm super excited to see what that's going to look like now that we've spent a whole year keeping each other safe, now things are getting a little more relaxed," Juarez Salas said.

"I'm more excited for the normalcy to come back this upcoming year, for sure." Henry said.

It's not too late to get vaccinated, they're still giving out vaccines to students, faculty, and staff members.

The first day of class for Mercer students is August 24.


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