What you MUST know before starting college in 2020

Cheryl ChamberlainCOVID-19Leave a Comment

Is your college really prepared for COVID-19?

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Attending college this fall will be unlike any other year. While a majority of colleges will conduct some form of in-person instruction, many colleges are opting for completely online or hybrid formats. Preparing for college will take on new meaning as we all learn to cope with a pandemic. One of the first things to keep in mind is that colleges are impacted by their states and geographic regions. This will affect not only the rules colleges and students must follow, but the rate of infection at any given time.


If your college is moving to a completely online instructional format, you are likely disappointed that you will miss out on the other aspects of college life. Keep in mind that all colleges will be making changes. Even those schools inviting students to campus may limit academic, sports, and activities programming. Online classes could even mean that you are doing your part to keep the coronavirus in check and save lives. Besides that, colleges starting with students on campus may need to switch to online at some point, so you will have a headstart in making that adjustment. For online formats, you will want to ask what your college will be doing to foster relationships among the students and with teachers. You will also want to ask what clubs or activities will still be available to you.

On campus

If some or all students are invited back to campus, understand that no college will have a perfect plan or can guarantee that you will not contract COVID-19.  A college’s response to the coronavirus will likely change over time as we gain a greater understanding of COVID-19. However, you can make sure that your college is taking precautions and basing their plan on facts.  According to Jim Welch, Executive Director of the Elizabeth R. Griffin Research Foundation affiliated with Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security, all conversations with college representatives should begin by making sure the college’s plans are based on an understanding of the R0 (pronounced “are naught”) factor for a person with COVID-19. This is the rate of infection.

Then ask these questions

  • What R0 factor is the college planning for? At what point might the college change its plans and what is the alternate plan?
  • How are they managing situations where crowds are likely, especially indoors such as large classes, the cafeteria, common areas, etc.?
  • How are they managing situations where close contact is likely such as dorms, bathrooms (in the dorm and in school buildings), and small indoor meeting or study spaces?
  • How are they managing sports, both for athletes and spectators? For athletes, how are they managing close contact with teammates and travel?
  • How are they minimizing high risk situations such as parties, visiting bars, concerts or other events, and public transportation?
  • Are they taking measures to encourage students to stay on campus?
  • What rules or guidelines do they have for travel to and from school?
  • What social distancing rules do they have for students and how will they be enforced? Are masks required and when? What about hand washing?
  • What is the protocol for testing and contact tracing? How will they manage isolation and quarantine protocols? Are there consequences if protocols are not followed?
  • What is the protocol if a student, professor, or staff member has symptoms and/or tests positive? Do students have the option to go home?
  • If a student becomes sick, who cares for them? Can you move that student to a private doctor’s care?
  • How will they determine if a student needs to go to the hospital? Can the student choose the hospital? How do families remain in contact with their students?

Be prepared

What you may want to do for yourself:

  • Understand the facts about this particular coronavirus and COVID-19 from the CDC. Pay special attention to understanding social distancing guidelines and the role of asymptomatic spreaders, particularly among young adults.
  • Consider a quarantine before arriving on campus, especially if you are in a high positive state, to avoid spread to other students, faculty, and staff.
  • Know your health history and your health insurance information.
  • Make yourself an emergency card with vital health information and carry it with you, along with your IDs and health insurance card. Your information should also include contact information in case of emergency (in case your phone is locked).
  • Check out nearby hospitals. If you have a health condition or concern, you may want to establish a relationship with a local, private doctor.
  • Get some vital documents in order before coming to campus. A HIPAA waiver allows medical professionals to share your medical information with family members. A FERPA waiver allows your college to share certain school information with your family. A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows another person to make healthcare decisions for you.
  • Get the phone numbers for anyone you or your family might need to contact – roommate, RA, health clinic, or campus emergency numbers.
  • Prepare a prevention and first aid kit that may include – multiple masks, sanitizer, disinfecting products, thermometer, acetaminophen, Vitamins C, D, B complex, and Zinc (thought to boost the immune system).
  • Understand and assess the risks of the off-campus environment. Do people generally wear masks and social distance?

Regardless of which college you attend, the Class of 2024 will have a special camaraderie and unique bond. You will find strength in confronting life’s very real problems together.

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