As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to establish new definitions of “normal” across the country, states are beginning to slowly reopen and students, from elementary school to college, are uncertain under what circumstances they will return in the fall.
In the middle of February, my current institution, Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), started reacting to the news and the ongoing spread of the coronavirus. It started small, with outside events such as aquarium night, regional conventions and large social gatherings being cancelled. As the month continued, I began noticing a rapid shift in professors’ moods and at CCBC. Most of my professors and bosses became very lenient on assignment deadlines and were available for assistance to talk with any problems or questions I had.
These small changes turned into drastic ones like making graduation virtual and not allowing students on campus. While a lot of my classes were online from the beginning, some of my classmates struggled adapting to classes like Anatomy and Psychobiology in an online setting.
These changes, all within a month,made me feel shocked, and I honestly didn’t think it would be as big of a deal as it is right now. It made me feel upset when all my exciting plans, from walking the graduation stage, attending the annual student life banquet and seeing my friends on campus for the last time were all eliminated. However, even with my feelings of disappointment, I managed to finish my last semester strong and graduated.
At the end of the semester, plans for students returning to campus were up in the air. After graduating, my initial plans were to attend Goucher College. Goucher is currently working on plans for students to return to campus with the implementation of certain precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus, such as offering single rooms to house students living on campus, practicing strict social distancing rules and mandating the wearing of protective masks on campus. However, some colleges, such as UMBC, Towson, and UMD College Park may not be going towards the direction Goucher is headed due to their larger population of students.
Whether they plan to attend in-state of out-of-state schools next semester, many students, like me, still doubt whether they will be able to come to campus. Some of my friends said they were so uncertain that they will be taking a gap year or semester, just so they have the guarantee they will be able to return.
Currently, students who aren’t able to come to campus for a visit have been offered virtual opportunities to talk with current students, staff and faculty about campus life. I have been able to attend most of the virtual information sessions offered by Goucher College. From attending virtual sessions for transfer students, town hall meetings, residence life, student life, and overall campus life, these were essential in helping me grasp what campus life will be like in the fall semester under the new COVID-19 restrictions.
As the cases of coronavirus continue to fluctuate, schools have been working hard to make sure their students are ready for whatever comes next. Whether it would be offering additional financial aid, single room housing at a low rate or being able to assist in virtual one-on-one Zoom sessions, I feel like this won’t be the last semester universities will be adapting to national sentiment. This process will have to continue for an extended amount of time and I believe the only thing that will encourage universities to ease restrictions and return to the pre-coronavirus normal is a vaccine.
COVID-19 has definitely put a huge weight on plans for the summer and fall semester; however, it is important to keep practicing social distancing, keep washing your hands, and continue these practices when or if schools and colleges decide to return to campus in the fall.
While this year has not gone the way any of us had planned for it to go, I feel that schools and universities across the country are doing their best to be able to see their students, new and returning, in August.