College in the Fall

haveuheard college fall

What College Will Look Like for Students in the Fall

Right about now our high school seniors should be attending graduation parties and beginning their shopping sprees to fill the dorm rooms of whichever college they decided on. However, these unprecedented times – are you as tired of that term as I am – have put another decision on our plates. Much bigger than when can they finally get a haircut, students and parents now have to decide if their college of commitment turns out to do all online classes in the fall.

We already have heard some indication of what campus will look like. Dorm rooms will be limited to a maximum of two roommates, many will not allow outside visitors into the dorms, students will need to wear masks, in-person class sizes will be limited to allow for social distancing. If dorms are open and then the state decides to close again, will the universities be refunding money again? Most upperclassmen live off-campus so they too have a difficult decision to make. What about parents who sign a lease for an off-campus apartment? Will apartments are willing to add a pandemic clause and let parents out of their leases or, at the very least, prorate for the time school is closed (probably not or on a very limited basis).

What about football and other sports, long seen as an attraction at large universities? While the universities are allowing athletes to return on a volunteer basis, they are already seeing  cases at several universities. HaveUHeard that most universities will not be having students return after Thanksgiving if they leave? They will finish up virtually at home, thus limiting any students coming back and putting many at risk.

And while everything is changing rapidly, for parents, the question in their minds is will they want their students to go and live in a communal situation (dorms) or stay home and take the same classes from home? Perhaps, it makes more sense to stay home and take classes locally at a community college and transfer the credits later when they can restart their freshman experience. Freshman year, living in a dorm, possibly rushing a fraternity or sorority, joining clubs, going to football games, sitting next to the kid that will become your study partner; to me are all part of the freshman experience. Without that, many parents and students agree, it just isn’t worth the risk to live communally, particularly if they can’t enjoy the fun parts of it.

There is also the expense. Many parents agree that it would surely save them money if their students stayed home, particularly if they can save money on the same credits at a less expensive local or community college. Even parents whose incomes were not affected are concerned about finances as we are undoubtedly living in uncertain times. Just about everyone agrees that it is unfair to students to have to miss out on the true college experience, but if they go, will they be getting it or is it even worth the risk. We want to trust that colleges are carefully thinking this through and going to implement whatever necessary to operate with minimal risk. By the same token, we have seen the pictures of large gatherings of students off-campus.

So the question on all our minds is what will school look like this fall? Will classes all be virtual? How will I make friends if I don’t go to classes? Live in a dorm? Join a sorority/fraternity? Should I defer the start of my college education? The decision to return to college in the fall may be dependent on family finances, health, and other circumstances unique to their situation and beyond their control. However, when we asked students and parents what they thought of the situation most agreed they were going back anyway.

Nicole, an incoming freshman, said, “Staying home for college is not the experience I planned. It took me a long time to choose a college. But, I guess, if all the classes are online and if the dorms aren’t open; I might as well take classes locally. I know there is nothing anyone can do about this situation, but it is just so sad. This would just be one more disappointment with all that’s gone on lately.” While her mother, Elyse, said, “I’m terrified for Nicole to go away right now. I hate that she will be far away and I can’t get to her easily if anything goes wrong. And there is a lot that can go wrong. Part of me hopes the schools just stay closed until the spring semester and then things will be better and safer and she can have the freshman year she envisioned.”

Susan, the mom of two juniors, said, “I am ok sending my sons back to school. By then they will be used to wearing masks and social distancing and I hope they still will adhere to guidelines. I also know socially it is important to see friends again and get back in a routine.”

Sarah, a returning senior, said, “I’m really hoping things return to normal soon. With all this protesting, I have a feeling COVID-19 will have a second wave. As much as I prefer classes to be on campus because it makes me a more effective and hardworking student, I’ll also be really bummed if they cancel tailgates for my senior year. I would rather take precautions and stay near my college friends than go home and be holed up in my parents’ house. My parents are nice, but I need to be with friends – even from six feet apart too.”

Lindsay, a Florida resident and an incoming freshman headed to Ohio State, said, “Although it would be disappointing to miss out on the typical college experiences, even with limited social activities, I’d want to go away to school. I think we are all just trying to make the best of a bad situation.”

Her mom states ” The question is no longer hypothetical. This is happening; in person until Thanksgiving and then home classes staggered; extra curriculars somewhat limited but we are 100% going!”

After one, two, or three years of “freedom,” can I handle giving up my cherished independence to live at home again? It shouldn’t matter if our students are at college or home, as long as they are adhering to the precautions that the CDC has drilled into us by now. However, can we be sure our students won’t be too tempted to just go to a “little party,” begin to forget to wear their masks, continually wash their hands, and keep six feet apart?

It’s difficult for me to envision my own daughter disinfecting on a regular basis when getting her to clean her own room has never been her strong suit. We certainly can’t police them forever; nor will worrying if they do go back to school do any of us any good. I suppose this is just one more of those situations where we have to trust that we have taught them well and they will make good choices. Besides, are you ready to have them home for another 2 – 4 – 6 months in semi-quarantine? A recent study predicted that between 10 – 40% of families will change their college plans because of the pandemic, but so far it seems that students are waiting until the last minute before deferring.  I admit; I can’t blame them. This is not an easy decision for students or parents.

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2020-07-29T14:56:31-04:000 Comments

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