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Outlook for Colleges: Fall 2020

By Mary O'Callaghan

The coronavirus pandemic has taken something away from all of us—a sense of normalcy. Year after year, graduating seniors had the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends, teachers, and high school career in person as they prepared to open a new chapter in their lives. COVID-19 deprived seniors of the satisfaction of celebrating their achievements after four years of hard work. And looking to the future, students, parents, and teachers cannot predict what other disruptions lie ahead for the coming school year.

In a normal year, incoming freshman would be preparing for their college careers, including picking a roommate, filling out paperwork for dorms, getting to know the campus, and, for some, visiting the campus for the first time. All of this has changed since the pandemic interrupted everyone’s daily life. Matriculated students are now wondering what awaits them: Will their college life be normal? Will they be able to go to campus for class? While nothing has been finalized, some colleges have started formulating plans for students to be on campus.

What might incoming freshman should expect this fall? While most schools must wait for state-mandated guidance to make their final plans for the school year, a lot of institutions are planning to reopen for the fall semester, including MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and more. Other schools felt it was best to incorporate in-person learning as much as possible and to send students home in time for Thanksgiving break.

Several schools are using this strategy, including Saint Louis University, the University of Notre Dame, Syracuse, and the University of South Carolina. While having students on campus requires new safety measures and may open the universities up to potential legal problems, most schools feel that it is best for students to remain on campus in order to limit their travel to other places. Other colleges are working on combining in-person and online learning, or offering both options, so students will not be as crowded or exposed to germs. A few colleges planning to use this strategy are The University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, and NYU.

No matter what plans are put in place, challenges will continue to appear, and institutions and students alike will have to put normal expectations about what a college experience should be aside.

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