If you are planning on going to college in the fall, you’re probably on the edge of your seat wondering what your fall semester may look like.
Colleges have begun announcing their fall 2020 tentative plans for reopening campus, and it is certainly different than a typical fall semester. Colleges are doing their best to create preliminary plans to try to reopen and resume life on campus while providing social distancing and safety measures to ensure all students and faculty are safe.
Where To Find The Latest College Information
The best place to look up information on college reopening plans is at the Chronicle of Higher Education (linked here). They have tracked 900+ colleges reopening plans.
In-Person, Hybrid, or Online?
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, about 65% of colleges are planning to resume in person teaching this fall. About 11% of colleges are planning to introduce a hybrid model. This means some in-person classes and some online classes. Some schools that have chosen to implement a hybrid model are Carnegie Mellon, NYU, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, and Rice.
About 9% of colleges are “considering a range of scenarios”. This means they are considering in-person or a hybrid model, while also making unique adjustments just for their particular school. An example of this is Columbia: they announced they will be expanding their academic calendar to include a summer semester to de-densify campus. Another example is Stanford: they are considering a hybrid model but are also proposing a plan to offer on campus spots to half of the student body at a time and make summer quarter an official academic quarter, so students can come to campus for 2 quarters out of the year and study remotely for at least one quarter.
Along with 6% of colleges that are undecided in their fall 2020 plans, 8% of colleges have made the decision to only offer online classes. These schools include the entire Cal State system of 20+ colleges.
What Will Fall Semester Look Like?
No matter a school’s preliminary reopening plans, most colleges will be implementing similar strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
1. Limiting Size of Gatherings
Some classes may not be allowed to meet in-person if they are too large. For those whose classes are small, students may have to wear mandatory face masks.
2. Leniency for Sick Days
Because no one wants someone sick to spread disease during this time, schools may be more lenient in allowing students to miss class if they are showing symptoms. In addition, many colleges will probably provide academic support for those students who are sick and fall behind.
3. Ending by Thanksgiving
This is a popular trend many colleges are adopting. Thanksgiving is a time where students travel across the world to go home, and when they return tend to infect each other with illnesses such as the flu. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges are deciding to end their semester by Thanksgiving. Some will go online to finish up while some will hold finals before the break.
4. Housing for Quarantining
Colleges are finding ways to quarantine students who do catch COVID-19. This can include creating a separate dorm building for them or quarantining them in their single dorm rooms.
5. Dining Services
Colleges will have to reexamine how they provide meals to their students. Students will have to socially distance themselves in the dining halls, and colleges will also have to consider how they will feed students who are quarantining.
6. Mandatory Testing
This will likely be instituted at every college resuming in-person classes. Students arriving on campus will probably be tested for COVID-19 and possibly quarantined on arrival. In addition, colleges may restrict travel for certain regions or countries to any student living on campus.
7. Limited Campus Life
Gatherings, extracurriculars, and visitors could all be limited to small groups or outdoor meetings only to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Conclusion: We Don’t Have One Yet
Because everything is tentative, it’s hard to give a definitive conclusion on what fall semester may look like.
What we know for sure is it will be a semester unlike any other in recent history. But it doesn’t mean it won’t be a great learning opportunity for students. Every college is committed to fostering an intellectual community and top-tier education no matter what. So stay positive and keep informed.