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.