What to Consider When Going Back to School During the Pandemic

As we all watch the news and check our email inboxes for the latest updates from our universities, we are still wondering: what will going back to school look like this fall? Many schools have already made their decisions about whether they will hold in-person classes or return to a virtual schedule, but that still doesn’t bring a strong sense of safety or security. Still, all students must make the best decisions for themselves. To assist you in your considerations and preparation for a return to campus (or to the virtual classroom), we’ve compiled a list of what to consider for going back to school:

Safety of your living situation

In the age of COVID-19, when we say “safety” of living situation, we mean: what is your ability to social distance and minimize use of shared spaces or living resources? If you’re living on-campus in student housing, find out what safety measures your school is taking to ensure your space is properly sanitized. If you’re living off-campus in an apartment building, talk to the management company. Aside from the obvious mask-wearing, consider how you can utilize these shared spaces or resources during times where there might be lower usage so you can maintain a safe distance from others when possible.

Safety and practicality of your classroom or study space

Similarly, safety measures will likely decrease the number of spaces where you are able to study, and how you’re able to attend in-person classes. If you’re virtual, try to find a private space in your home for studying, free of distractions. For those attending class in-person, get information from your school, as well as your individual professors, about how they will ensure you can attend class as safely as possible.

Access to healthcare and other health-related resources

We can’t talk about health and safety without also considering what your access to healthcare services will be like. Make sure you know where the closest health clinic is, as well as its hours and what services it provides. It’s important to know where and how you can get tested for COVID-19 in the event you feel you were exposed to the virus. Some schools may also require that you sign up for health insurance to attend school, so make sure you look into the best plan for your needs.

Communication with family and friends

With so much uncertainty, it’s important you’re able to stay connected and informed throughout the semester. Your school will be able to provide you with WiFi or Internet, but for all of those times you need to make a call, a text, or you venture off campus, be sure you have reliable phone service to keep your family or friends updated as to how you’re doing. Having a U.S. phone number is especially important in the event of an emergency, as it will allow you to contact your school or the services that you need. Make sure you are signed up with reliable phone service ahead of the semester so that you can be safe as soon as you step foot onto campus.

Participation in social activities

Starting school inevitably means meeting your classmates and other students, and wanting to spend time with them. Given restrictions on gatherings – which varies by state – you’ll need to be conscientious of not only the rules in your local community, but on your campus and at your school. Have honest conversations with your friends about prioritizing safety. It might seem as though things are safe in your on-campus bubble, but gathering in groups is still a risk, and you and your friends may need to rethink how you plan to come together and socialize.

Going back to school should be an exciting time. Normally, a new semester brings anxiety or stress stemming from things like the new situations you’ll encounter, adjusting to new professors, and meeting the expectations of the curriculum. However, this year, as a student, you’ll have to grapple with the unknowns and uncertainty that comes with starting the semester during a pandemic. While it certainly can be scary to think about, if you arm yourself with information and knowledge about how to keep yourself safe, you can still have a successful semester. Just remember that doing your best is sometimes enough, and that you have other students in your community that will be facing the same challenges.

What You Should Look for When Comparing Universities Online

When considering which university is right for you, the ideal scenario is being able to visit each one in person and get a feel for the place, see for yourself what it is you like and dislike, as well as meet face-to-face with potential professors and students. Unfortunately, visiting universities in person can be expensive, arduous and in the current climate, risky for one’s health.

Thankfully though, many of the most important resources for comparing universities and colleges are freely available online. However, with such a wealth of information for each institution, what should you be looking for when comparing universities online?

Program Content and Structure

Perhaps the first thing you should decide on is which course you intend on studying. Once this is clear, it becomes far easier to compare colleges and universities.

When comparing courses, consider not only the content (two courses with the same name can have vastly different curricula) but also the structure. How many modules are there to take? What freedom do you have in choosing? What will the average week look like, lots of lectures or more individual study time? What degree of practical work compared to theoretical? How many hours of teaching time will there be? Your preferences for each will be key in making a decision.


Some degrees will assess you heavily by expecting lots of essays to be written. Others may have lots of exams, or practical tests, others may have presentations or group work. Compare course assessments and see which play best to your strengths, but remember: you are at university to test your limits and improve. It may be worthwhile testing yourself and choosing a course that will push you out of your comfort zone.

Academic Reputation

There are two things to consider here, the reputation of the institution as a whole, as well as of the particular course you plan on studying. Both can often be compared in some of the world’s most popular ranking lists, such as Times Higher Education, or the QS university rankings.


Would you prefer to live in the city or somewhere more rural? In your spare time, would you prefer hanging out by the beach or going skiing in the mountains?

The area in which you choose to study is always important, though especially so if you plan on studying abroad, whereupon you not only have to choose a region, but the very country itself.

Entry Requirements and Affordability

When comparing universities, it’s also important to be realistic about your chances. When comparing universities, you should be checking the entry requirements like the grades or experience required, language requirements and tuition fees, to make sure the course is affordable.

Of course, when applying, it’s good to push oneself, but remember to have a back up to fall back on if things don’t go to plan.

Student Life

Many institutions have clubs and societies for students to join, which can make it a lot easier to find friends with similar interests, as well as a good way to pass your free time. It’s also important to see what is available to do outside of university though, whether that be the nightlife, events, particular places of interest or local towns or cities to visit.

Style of Institution

Some universities have a particular reputation for excelling in individual areas. This one produces lots of politicians, and this one lots of successful entrepreneurs, for example. Some will have a particularly vibrant nightlife scene, while others excel in spotting excellence. This sort of reputation may not always be made clear on a university’s website, so make sure to search and read through message boards or social media.

Student Satisfaction

Another common metric often included in rankings lists is student satisfaction. While this can be useful (especially when weeding out some of those with the lowest satisfaction scores), bear in mind that students can base their satisfaction on any number of things, which these results do not always make clear, so if two universities have similar scores, don’t let this affect your decision too much.

Prospects After Graduation

Compare the percentages of graduate employability (as well as how many go into further study), as well as the types of employment they have found and how much they are earning. Do these percentages reflect your own plan post-graduation?

Finding the right place to study can be a long and tricky process, but luckily there are lots of resources available online, such as Viva-Mundo.com, which guides students that wish to study abroad.