Photography by Jessica Turner

When the class painted their parking spots at the beginning of the year, senior Sophie Anderson paid homage to a book and a brand she and her friends love to wear during cross country practice. Using white, she painted When Life Gives You Lululemons on a pastel yellow background. 

Last year, Anderson was supposed to lead the rest of Ursuline Academy’s ambassadors at graduation, welcoming parents and grandparents and directing them to their seats. But because of the pandemic, the ambassadors didn’t attend the graduation. 

Many of last year’s events were canceled as a result of COVID-19, but Ursuline has worked to make this year as close to normal as possible.

Anderson and her classmates still had their Senior Birthday Bash and Senior Latte Day, when Ursuline provided brewed coffee and plenty of syrups and creamers. Her classmates were particularly excited about the Starbucks creamers, though Anderson prefers tea. 

Other events still took place, with modifications. Food served during the senior breakfast was pre-packaged, and the whole school was able to participate in intramurals, though it wasn’t as rowdy and spirited as it has been. 

“There wasn’t that cohesive, all four grades together. Everyone’s dressed up in their colors, so it’s these distinct splotches of green, yellow, red and blue,” Anderson says. “It’s such a great bond. We didn’t super have that this year just because we were all separated.” 

Seniors also had their retreat, when they watched She’s the Man on the lawn while enjoying snacks from food trucks and a coffee bar serving specialty drinks like mochas and hazelnut lattes. 

“They (Ursuline) really try to do what’s best for the girls and try to make sure everything happens and in the safest way possible or doesn’t happen if it’s not safe,” Anderson says. 

The same seems to be true of other institutions, specifically the colleges to which Anderson applied. Prospective students haven’t been allowed to visit campus, so schools have made most of their admissions events virtual.

“I’ve done an ungodly amount of virtual tours, visits,” Anderson says. Those virtual tours took the form of informational sessions, breakout rooms and pre-recorded videos. 

After taking the ACT once, writing 23 college essays and submitting nine college applications – she likes odd numbers – Anderson has decided to attend Fordham University in New York as a pre-med student starting next fall. Though she’s never been on campus, she’s not worried about it. 

“I just know it’s where I’m supposed to go,” she says. 

For Anderson, it’s a gut feeling, the same one she felt when she realized she wanted to attend Ursuline. And she knows the importance of having that feeling; as an ambassador, she often asks prospective students whether they can picture themselves attending the school. 

The future pre-med major plans to travel to New York City and “creepily walk around the walls” of Fordham since she can’t actually go on campus.

During the summer, Anderson says she’ll try to get a job in retail, but she won’t be able to get an internship, since many of them still aren’t available. She also wants to spend time with her friends before they head off to college. Maybe they’ll go to the beach again, have a round two of their spring break trip to Florida. But they’re still tossing around ideas, like taking a day trip to Austin or renting a cabin in East Texas for the Fourth of July.  

Whatever they decide, they will undoubtedly remember this year, their year to be seniors, to graduate, to prepare for, get excited for and stress about college, as something special, something different. 

“I think our grade really just came together in a way it hadn’t before,” Anderson says. “Just because of that shared experience and that deeper appreciation for what we had before.”