The COVID-19 College Experience: What Can You Expect? (Part 2 of 2)

In my last blog post, I began to address how I expect COVID-19 will impact the college experience in the 2020-2021 school year. In this post, I discuss other ways the college experience is likely to be impacted.
Campus Dining–Normally, college dining halls are indoor places where students congregate and socialize while eating. Because of social distancing concerns, I think students will not generally be eating in the dining halls. They may be eating primarily in their dorm rooms or in outdoor locations, when it is warm and dry enough.
In a “normal” semester, many dining halls provide an all-you-can-eat experience with self-service for many foods. I expect that all-you-can-eat and self-service will be eliminated for 2020-2021.
Some colleges are trying new ways to get meals to students. For example: 
  • Rider University allows students to order meals from smartphone apps and delivers the meals to food lockers, where students can pick them up without interacting with others.
  • George Mason University and the University of Houston are piloting robotic delivery fleets that deliver meals to students.

Rider University
Dorms – I think that this year three or four people in a dorm room will disappear. I expect there will still be doubles.
Reducing the density in dorm rooms and putting aside rooms for quarantine, means that there will be less housing available on many campuses.
The cleaning frequency of shared spaces, like hall bathrooms will increase.
Extracurricular Activities – The number of people gathering at any activity will be reduced. For example, the maximum number of people at parties will be reduced based on the venue space.
Many activities may be canceled or altered significantly because of the need for social distancing. For example, some contact sports will be canceled or played without students in the stands.
International Scene– I expect there will be fewer international students on campus, because many international students can’t get visas, especially freshmen. Many study abroad activities will be canceled or postponed due to the inability of US students to get visas to go abroad and/or because of the COVID-19 situation in other countries.
Financial Aid – More families may be looking for need-based financial aid because of loss of jobs, cuts in pay, death of a student’s parent, reduction in asset value and medical bills.
More families may take Federal student loans because the interest rates for 2020-2021 are much lower than in previous years. The Federal student loan interest rate for 2020-2021 is 2.75%, and the Federal Parent PLUS loan interest rate is 5.3%.
College Finances – Many colleges will be struggling financially. As of June 22nd, more than 750 colleges had openings and many expect a bigger than usual summer melt. State funding of public universities is likely to go down in many states because of reduced tax revenues and increased expenses related to COVID-19. The college revenue shortfall may lead to program cuts, pay cuts and layoffs, and even college closure. For example, the University of Alaska will cut 39 academic departments. Elmira College (NY) is eliminating several academic programs and is reducing its staff by 20%.
The Big Picture – The 2020-2021 school year is one in which colleges will need to plan carefully, communicate clearly to students and their families, enforce safety precautions, and be creative and nimble to respond to the changing conditions. There are serious risks for all involved.

The COVID-19 College Experience: What Can You Expect? (Part 1 of 2)



The fall semester will be unique because of COVID-19. While every college will be a little different, here is what I expect you may find.

COVID-Safety – Colleges will try and make sure that students arrive on campus COVID-free by doing some or all of the following:

  • Testing for the virus,
  • Taking temperatures,
  • Asking about COVID-19 symptoms and travel.
To prevent the spread of the virus on campus, colleges will enforce social distancing, the wearing of masks, reduce physical interactions, and have additional cleaning. Social distancing will often require fewer student in a classroom or in a dorm room. To reduce physical interactions, colleges may use doors that open automatically or assign a single person to open doors in a particular building. Colleges will have plans for quarantining students that come down with the virus and will have contact tracing in order to know who the infected person has come in contact with. Colleges will also make special arrangements for high-risk students and employees; this may mean online classes for those students or faculty. The biggest unknown regarding COVID-safety is whether students will follow the college’s guidelines.
Academics – Colleges have taken different approaches regarding delivery of course material in the fall semester. Plans include on-line synchronous, on-line asynchronous, in-person and hybrid course delivery. Many schools, not teaching on-line, will need to spread out classes across more hours of the day, more days of the week, and/or more months of the year to teach in person, while social distancing.
According to a Chronicle of Higher Education survey of 960 colleges published on June 14, the college plans for course delivery are as follows:
  • Planning for in-person – 65%
  • Proposing a Hybrid Model – 11%
  • Considering a Range of Scenarios – 9%
  • Planning for Online – 8%
  • Waiting to Decide – 6%
Here are plans announced by four colleges that reflect a variety of different approaches:
  • Beloit College plans to break the semester into 2 modules, in which students take 2 courses in each module. “The aspiration is to have a residential learning experience next year, but if COVID rages, this flexibility allows us to have it only affect half a semester, possibly.”
  • Stanford University plans to spread instruction over four quarters, including the summer. Half of undergrads will be allowed on campus in fall. Students who are permitted on campus will switch with their peers each subsequent quarter. The four quarter year would allow Stanford undergrads to complete two quarters in residence, and at least one quarter remotely.
  • The University of Notre Dame will resume in-person classes on August 10. Classes will begin two weeks earlier than usual so students can complete a full semester by Thanksgiving. They hope that by skipping a traditional fall break they will reduce the likelihood that students will bring the virus back to campus.
  • The 23-campus California State University system is planning for on-line classes, with limited exceptions for essential lab courses and clinical classes for nursing students.

Tips for College Freshmen

I hope these tips will help your children or students get through the first semester of college with good grades, good health, new friends, not too much homesickness, and no regrets.
Academic Tips:
1.      Attend class regularly.
2.      Do your homework. Plan on doing two hours of school work out of class for every hour in class.
3.      When you don’t understand something in class, get help from the school’s tutoring center and/or visit the professor during office hours with your questions right away.
4.      Find a good place to study on campus, like the library.
5.      Don’t leave big projects until the last minute.
Social Tips:
1.      Find and join some clubs, as soon as possible. Take advantage of the activity fair during orientation or early in the first semester to learn what clubs are available.
2.      Keep your dorm room door open when you are in. This makes it easier for you and your hallmates to get to know each other.
3.      Eat your meals with other students. Make mealtime a social event.
4.      If you are a residential student, don’t go home on the weekends.
5.      Set up groundrules with your roommate.
6.      Talk with your Residential Advisor about problems you are having.
Other tips:
1.      Get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
2.      Eat a healthy breakfast, lunch and supper.
3.      Know and use the services the school has to offer, as needed. These may include health services, job placement services, recreation facilities, tutoring service, disability services, and more.
4.      Exercise regularly.
5.      Manage your time and your money.
6.      Do things in moderation.
7.      Be true to yourself and your values.
8.      Don’t do things that are illegal, immoral or unethical.
9.      And last but not least, communicate with your family.
What other tips would you give?