Peer counselors support first-years students virtually

COVID-19 restrictions have made it more difficult for first-years to adjust to college life and build relationships


Grace Mamon

Peer counselors spread positivity on Cannan Green on Oct. 2.

Kelsie Westmoreland

Peer counselors have to conduct their meetings with first-years virtually, causing strain on both the first-year students and the counselors themselves.

Both parties agree on the difficulty of counseling without face-to-face meetings.

“So much of being a peer counselor is developing relationships with your hall and just being physically present,” said peer counselor Luke Edwards, ‘22.

Edwards said that this year is a major learning curve for students, first-years and upperclassmen alike, and that everyone is adjusting to a new normal in their own ways.

“This year,” Edwards said, “peer counselors are needed more than ever.”

Jonathan Tucker, ‘21, lead peer counselor for the 2020-2021 school year, also noted the extent of the differences within the program, especially in the first weeks of the semester.

“Because we are usually a permanent fixation on the hall, whether that be hanging out in the common areas or organizing fun group activities, it is a lot easier now to forget that resources are available,” Tucker said.

COVID-19 restrictions, including social distancing and wearing masks, have made it more difficult for first-years to make friends and build new relationships. And the added demands of academic work can be extremely overwhelming.

But both Edwards and Tucker showed appreciation for the relationships they form within the peer counsellor program and with their first-year halls.

“The group of PCs is such an amazing community in and of itself,” Edwards said. “Everyone is so nice and welcoming, and it truly is an amazing group to be a part of.”

Both counselors said they recommend applying to be a peer counsellor because it’s one of the best ways to get involved and make a positive change on campus.

“I encourage anyone and everyone to apply to be a peer counselor,” said Tucker. “There are so many great students here, and it is heartening to see how many phenomenal people make up this campus.”

The PC program had its annual WLU Appreciates day on Friday, Oct. 2, where they handed out positive sticky notes and free Pure Eats donuts, and played music on Cannan Green to boost campus morale.

Last year, Tucker said he invited his hall to his home at the third year village for a pancake dinner. But now, COVID guidelines from the university limit the number of students allowed at inside gatherings to six people. Outside gatherings are limited to 10.

“We are used to big hall events where we can all be together and get to spend fun time with one another. This year we have had to be very creative,” Tucker said.

In accordance with social distancing guidelines, peer counselors have primarily met with their advisees over Zoom, through text messaging or while socially distancing at d-hall and co-op.

In his midterm email update to the student body, President William Dudley acknowledged that first-year students are struggling.

“All of us are grieving the loss of normalcy,” he wrote. “The situation is especially difficult for many of our first-year students, who arrived on campus without the established relationships that nourish us during difficult times.”

He recommended making use of peer counseling, the university counseling center and the Carilion Employee Assistance Program.

“I encourage everyone to make connections with old friends as well as with the newest members of the W&L family, and to look out for those who are feeling isolated.”