After an unsettling spring and a strange start to summer in 2020, there are many unknowns about the fall semester for both incoming and existing college students. Depending on what college looks like for you in the upcoming months, I have some advice on how to cope with and navigate the coronavirus pandemic. There are some strategies you can follow during the summer before you know what will happen in a few months. The possibilities are:

  • Virtual Classes / Remaining at Home
  • Combination of Virtual and On-Campus Classes
  • In-Person Classes / On-Campus

SUMMER STRATEGIES

Virtual Counseling: Check with your student health center about if they have virtual counseling and therapy available during the summer. This is a great resource even if you simply feel anxious or depressed about the current sociopolitical climate. Take advantage of telehealth or an Active Minds chapter on your campus, if available, to talk about mental health. You can even sign up for a texting therapy app called Mindstrong, which may not be widely available yet.

Virtually Socialize: There are many ways to socialize online, which may not be the same as being in person, but it’s better than nothing! There are a miriad of apps to make your virtual reality: FaceTime, HouseParty, Google Meet, NetflixParty, Skype, Zoom, etc.

Embrace the Outdoors: Go for a walk, a bikeride, a run, or a hike. Usually, these are free activities. Play a sport like disc golf or volleyball with your family or “quaranteam.” Go for a social distancing picnic if the weather is nice! Even go outside to read or even text. Getting vitamin D from the sun will boost your mood and immune system. (Note: Please follow your state/regional health guidelines.)

VIRTUAL CLASSES / REMAINING AT HOME

The emergency move to online classes in March was necessary, but for some colleges, classes may be virtual for all of the 2019-2020 academic year. I know what it’s like to be at home as a college student after being independent and living on campus — it’s a major adjustment for you and your family. You may not like the idea of remaining at home for the next year, but it may be unavoidable unless you transfer to a college that is having on-campus or partially on-campus classes. If you are sure your college will be completely online next semester, make sure you do the following:

Check with Financial Aid: Contact the financial aid office at your college to speak with someone about how your aid will be affected by COVID-19. There might be emergency funds you can use if your family’s financial situation was impacted by the pandemic. If you lived on campus previously, you may be entitled to a partial refund and ensure that you will not be paying for room and board if your classes are online and you are staying at home.

Remote Advising: If you’re not on campus, you should still have access to your academic advisor virtually. Even if you can’t see them in person, check in with your advisor on your credit hours.

Tips for Online Learning Success: If online classes are still fairly new to you, you can benefit from these tips given by Blackboard via US News. Additionally, ensure that you are equipped with the right tools to make an online program work for you. Make sure that you communicate as much as possible with your professors and follow up with your fellow classmates who may be in the same situation as you.

HYBRID LEARNING: VIRTUAL AND ON-CAMPUS CLASSES

If your college is considering a hybrid model for classes, you may not think it will be that different from completely in-person or online classes. Hybrid classes have been around for longer than the pandemic and are popular for graduate students who may work full-time alongside earning their degrees. Here’s what you can expect from hybrid courses:

More Work: Balancing 25-50% online and 50-75% in-person coursework can be more work than in a strictly in-person or virtual class. You will have remote lessons, classroom lectures, and homework. The virtual component doesn’t replace homework usually! You will definitely have to step up your time management skills with these kinds of classes.

Access to More Resources: Some of your lectures might be on-demand, which means you can replay (or fast-forward) through video lessons. The course may have more slideshows and visual materials that make it easier for you to take efficient notes and have better access to study materials.

Some Social Interaction: As compared with an online-only class, you’ll see your professor and classmates in-person regularly. Because classroom instruction is limited, many courses focus on discussions for the in-person time. Facilitating discussion is easier in person than online, so during that time focus on contributing to the discussion, asking questions, and getting to know your peers and professor.

IN-PERSON CLASSES / ON-CAMPUS

Are you nervous about returning to campus? It’s completely understandable if you are. The uncertainty during the pandemic still lingers an while some regions have relaxed their guidelines and restrictions, you should still exercise caution in social situations. Here are some tips for your return to campus:

Follow the Health Guidelines: It might be tempting to let your guard down, but in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, follow these CDC guidelines on campus:

  • Practice social distancing.
  • Wash hands vigorously with soap.
  • Minimize face-touching.
  • Try alternatives to a handshake.
  • Contact a health care provider if exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Don’t Expect Campus to be the Same: A lot may have changed in terms of rules, class sizes, and cleaning on your campus. Dorms may have different terms for on-campus living, large lecture sizes may be reduced, and there may be a strict policy for wearing masks. Much of this depends on your campus because the administration’s goal is for their students to be and feel safe.

Don’t Have Parties: While I know this is part of the campus experience, limiting your social interaction to a small group of people besides your classes. Social distance as much as you can on campus, but having large parties is inadvisable and quite risky.

Help Others be Accountable: Peer pressure is real at college. While you don’t want to be policing your peers’ behavior in relation to health guidelines, if you follow the guidelines, the more likely others you know will. The best approach is to keep yourself accountable and be respectful of your peers’ comfort levels. If you visit a friend, ask them if they’d like you to wear a mask in their house. It’s simple as communicating and being understanding.

However your fall may look, it will most likely be very different from the year before. I encourage you to seek help navigating this new college environment whether it’s from your advisors, professors, or health administrators. No one is an expert in these pandemic circumstances, so it’s okay to feel overwhelmed or unsure. Make sure you seek the proper resources when it comes to resuming your college education in the fall.

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