Graduating from high school should be an exciting time when all students celebrate their academic achievements. This spring, many new grads have had a complicated reaction to leaving their schools. On the one hand, it’s thrilling to await the college independence that’s right around the corner. On the other hand, coronavirus has created many new fears for young people awaiting their freshman fall semester.
It’s hard to know how coronavirus will change colleges when education leaders are shifting how they operate every day. There’s no clear-cut guidance on how to react and restructure the academic world when a pandemic occurs. Incoming first-year students may feel uneasy about their future, so it’s time to review what universities are planning to help make the transition safer and easier. When you know what to expect, you can manage your fears, decrease anxiety, and prepare yourself for the semester ahead.
Here’s what high school graduates can expect for college, post-coronavirus. Although it may not be the initial experience you looked forward to, it’s one that will protect your health and wellness as leaders and educators adapt to an ever-changing health landscape.
1. Possibly a Delayed Start
Academic leaders rely on daily updates to form their plans for the fall semester. As more testing, tracing, and treatments come into play, they have to update what they know and how that will affect students in the future. Some universities have announced they may delay the start of their semester, which could mean letting the spring semester run into the summer.
This is an especially popular idea with bigger colleges that need more time to figure out how to keep their large student body safe. Temple University spoke about its delayed fall semester and said the additional time would give it a clearer picture of reopening guidelines. Other colleges, like Boston University, have even mentioned that they may delay their campus opening until the fall of 2021 if health experts still advise social distancing measures by the end of summer.
2. More Online Class Plans
Leading health experts agree that without more advancements in coronavirus treatments, the U.S. could experience a worse fall surge in cases than in the spring. Colleges are looking to increase their online class availability to help in that situation. It’s safer for students to participate in social distancing by staying home and taking classes online, but in-person classes could benefit from online learning as well.
If a surge occurs, they’ll already have plans in place to quickly transition to online lessons and continue their lesson plans on schedule without endangering students.
3. Short Class Block Schedules
The typical college student has four to five classes each semester, but that could change for the upcoming school year. Instead of semester-long courses, professors may limit their courses to three or four weeks in length. Colorado College has already used this block schedule for the past 50 years. Students can complete courses in a much shorter timeframe and take up to eight blocks in a year.
Depending on how each college adapts to this plan, the courses may become more affordable. The school will have less time to require of professors, and if those same classes transition to virtual classrooms, that may decrease tuition even more. Online courses cost much less on average than those that happen in-person. Given how experts estimate that the unemployment rate reached at least 20% in early May, any savings will make getting an education easier on students.
4. Tiny In-Person Classes
Future first-year students can also know what to expect at college if they see an announcement about a reduction of in-person classes. The few that meet in classrooms will likely have a much smaller class size. A recent survey found that 14% of students might not return to their college because of personal or financial struggles related to coronavirus.
Additionally, the Center for Disease Control (CD) recommends at least 6 feet of distance between every person, especially in indoor settings where there’s limited fresh air movement. More classes may also happen outdoors when the weather permits because it would allow for more students to attend and spread out.
5. Increased Dining Hall Takeout Options
Campus dining halls are known as a social hub for freshman life in college. They’re a place where students crowd together in long buffet lines at mealtimes and catch up with their friends. This coming fall, students will likely see increased dining hall takeout options and decreased seating availability. More people will want to eat outdoors where they can keep their distance from others or take their food back to their dorm rooms.
6. Sanitized Dorm Rooms and Facilities
Dorm room situations are still up in the air for many colleges. Although students can still apply for on-campus rooms, academic leaders are holding back on their final decision. Some may continue requiring students to have roommates while others shrink their available housing. Colorado University is creating single-bed dorm rooms and limiting how many students can live on-campus.
Colleges may also announce a cleaning schedule for dorm rooms, libraries, dining halls, and classrooms that will continue even after move-in. Remember to disinfect your own laptop, books, possessions, and living space, as well.
7. Increased Mental Health Resources
Students must learn how to take care of their mental health while dealing with all of the coronavirus fallout, but that’s difficult to do alone. A recent study found that nearly 75% of college students feel more intense mental health symptoms from conditions like anxiety and depression. As students come back to campus or sign up for online courses, more colleges have pledged to make in-person and virtual counseling available so students can learn how to process and heal from their ongoing experience.
8. Tailored Essential Career Lessons
The coronavirus is also reshaping how college students think about their future careers. More young people want to take online medical classes to join the health care field after they graduate. Others are considering IT positions and digital or social media marketing jobs. These have all become essential careers since the start of the pandemic and will likely only become more needed in the future.
Students are also looking for backup plans. Industries like leisure and hospitality management have seen the most significant job losses since early March. Young people who still desire these careers are now looking to develop essential skills as their backup plan in case another pandemic causes mass layoffs. These skills would help them jump into non-degree oriented jobs after earning online certificates. Picturing themselves as electricians, dental hygienists, and web developers is a comforting thought in a new world where no one knows what’s happening next.
How Will Coronavirus Change Colleges?
The most important thing you can do to know how coronavirus will change colleges is to stay up-to-date with the university you’ll attend. Pay attention to announcements regarding how classes will run, how housing works, and if you can take courses that give you more essential career lessons. College life doesn’t have to feel uncertain when you keep up with guidelines and prepare for what to expect — and remember, resources are always available to help you manage your mental health.
About the Author: With a passion for education and student lifestyle, writer and blogger Alyssa Abel makes it her mission to offer helpful, well-informed resources for students and teachers everywhere. Read more of her work on Syllabusy.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.