According to the New York Times, over 85 colleges have reported at least 1,000 cases throughout the pandemic, and over 680 colleges have reported at least 100 cases. During the initial “wave” of the virus, in order to reduce covid on college campuses, in-person opportunities were delayed, and students swiftly transitioned to virtual instruction to finish off the spring semester. Near summer’s end, the country’s cases surged and headed into fall, the numbers spiked even higher. Some locations that saw a higher number of initial infections and experienced a mild decline in the summer are now enduring a harsh “second wave” of increased virus cases. As the fall semester concludes and students look ahead to the New Year, many wonder: How do I approach this new way of life? How do I safely form relationships with students on campus? How do I balance the health and safety of myself, my peers, and my family with a social life? We’re providing some tips for returning to college during the pandemic so you can embrace this new way of life safely and strategically and still get the most out of your college experience.
Tips for Returning to College
Remember, You’re Not Alone. Have open conversations with like-minded family and friends. Nobody has all of the answers just yet but rest assured that experts are actively searching for them. Whether you’re concerned about the virus or anxious about the loss of normality, we’re all in this together and here to help each other through it. Don’t be afraid to reach out and seek support if you’re struggling to adjust.
Campus Crisis Hotline: 512-245-2208
- Campus Counseling Center: counseling.txstate.edu/
Maintain Mask Etiquette. Keep up with wearing your mask and doing so properly. While there seems to be an end in sight as vaccines become more readily available to the public, masks are still mandatory until further notice, so maintain social distancing and wear a face-covering as required by your local government to avoid the spread of covid when returning to college campuses.
Hygiene is Key. Regular handwashing, sanitizing, and keeping up with general day-to-day hygiene will go miles for maintaining good health during the pandemic–both mental and physical. Your hands are like virus delivery vehicles to your body, delivering the virus from its previous host straight to you, so wash up and sanitize, especially before eating and after touching common surfaces or items.
Socialize & Stay Connected. If you’re wondering how to socialize when returning to college during a pandemic, you’re not alone as this has been an isolating experience for everyone. While you won’t be sitting shoulder to shoulder with a stranger in the stands at a football game, you can still get out and socialize and make the most of your college experience. Consider gathering outside with a small group of friends where there is lots of circulation and space to spread out. You can also invite a friend or two over to watch a movie or cook dinner. However, when indoors, masks should be worn, and social distancing should be practiced.
Study Safely. Regardless of the pandemic, you need to study up, and you can still do so as a group. There are safe ways to navigate an in-person study sesh, whether at the library or a friend’s dorm or apartment. Just minimize the number of people and social distance as best as possible. If you’ll be up close and personal sharing work, make sure you’re all wearing masks. Alternately, 2021 may be the year to normalize virtual study sessions. You can create a session in Zoom, Google Meet, or another video conferencing platform and interact and share documents back and forth electronically.
Expand Eating Options. Nothing says you have to stay cooped up in your room away from all civilization. Hit a local restaurant with a couple of friends, ask for patio seating if weather permits and enjoy a night out with your pals. It’s a great way to create relationships with other students on campus, support local businesses, and follow public health guidelines – all at the same time!
Stay Updated. It’s essential to stay informed, whether it be tracking covid on college campuses or cases in your hometown before taking a trip back for the weekend. However, it’s also important to take a break from the stressful news and watch a movie or read a book instead. Stay informed but don’t forget to practice self-care.
Additionally, for those traveling home on weekends or for holidays, remain cautious and careful in the activities you choose to participate in to avoid bringing covid back to school as much as you can.
Try not to focus on how you expected things to be or how things used to be and embrace a new way of life. You can still make plans to catch up with friends or study with students on campus and maintain some degree of normalcy while also making plans on how to remain safe at the same time. Campuses are built as communities close-knit and tight–so although this hits everyone hard, everyone can combat it as a community. As you get ready to return to school, determine a plan, set some goals, and link up with other students on campus who are dedicated to taking the same precautions as you. Meanwhile, trust that educators, scientists, parents, and other leaders are doing what they can to ensure your health and safety.