A Student’s Guide to Being on Campus During a Pandemic

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, college campuses around the world have shut down, causing students to continue their studies online. With the fall semester quickly approaching, and coronavirus still prevalent, campuses are likely to be much different this year.

While some schools are continuing to host classes online, others are opening with a modified academic calendar.

In addition to a change in schedule, campus life will take on a new look. For the safety of students and faculty, the lecture halls that once contained 300+ students are a thing of the past. Students will also find hand sanitizer stations throughout campus and be required to wear masks, especially in the classroom.  

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has outlined many rules and regulations to help keep students and faculty safe as the upcoming school year approaches.

Here’s what you need to know about how to stay safe on campus this fall:

2020 School supplies you never thought you needed

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, school supply lists are drastically changing. Here are some on-campus essentials suggested by the CDC:

  • A reusable water bottle to avoid using drinking fountains
  • Extra pens so you don’t have to borrow one from a classmate and risk passing germs
  • Disinfecting wipes, don’t trust that the person who sat in the seat before you cleaned up after themselves
  • Hand sanitizer in case you forget that you shouldn’t be shaking peoples’ hands or have to touch a doorknob to get into a classroom
  • Tissues so you don’t want to use the community tissue box
  • A face mask
  • An extra mask in case you drop yours and it gets dirty or needs to be washed

New social guidelines

The CDC recommends changing the way students interact with their professors and peers.

  • Don’t shake hands as this is one of the easiest ways to pass germs around
  • Avoid hugging your friends, even though it’s been a while since you last saw them. It’s better to be safe than sorry
  • Limit the number of people that you interact with, the more people you come in close contact with, the greater the risk
  • Keep time spent with others outside of your residence to a minimum, as this can increase your risk of contracting an illness

How to keep yourself safe on campus

Avoid social gatherings

For many, in addition to higher learning, college is about social gatherings and fun experiences. However, if you are planning on attending any social events, try to adhere to the CDC Guidelines for events and gatherings.

Make sure the event can support proper distancing and keep the attendance numbers to an absolute minimum. While it may be tempting to go to a party with friends, the CDC recommends staying home and only venturing out for essentials.

Wear a mask

While there may be conflicting information in the news when it comes to whether masks should be worn, OSHA and the CDC both suggest and encourage students to wear cloth masks. Cloth masks can help prevent droplets from spreading, which will reduce the passing of COVID or other airborne diseases.

While masks are encouraged and even mandatory in many situations, it’s important to know to take it off if you’re having trouble breathing. The inability to breathe is a health risk and should be taken seriously.

Reach out to a healthcare professional for assistance and advice if you find yourself having difficulties.

Create distance for yourself

According to the CDC, the transmission of coronavirus generally occurs when someone coughs, sneezes, or talks which launches droplets from their nose and mouth into the air and lands on the noses and mouths of people nearby.

This is why it’s important to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others. While desks and chairs should already be moved to meet CDC social distancing guidelines, use your best judgment when choosing a seat.

Try to leave at least one or two seats between you and the next person in all directions. This not only applies to classes but also study sessions in the library and dining halls on campus.

Telemedicine and Healthcare on Campus

Gone are the days of having to sit in the campus health building waiting to be seen. The CDC recommends taking a new approach to on-campus medicine whenever possible — telemedicine.

This approach will allow students to be seen via video conference or phone call to help support social distancing and help keep sick and potentially infected students in their homes.

While not all students will be able to be properly cared for over the phone, healthcare professionals will now have the ability to treat students in a safer manner.

Emergency Grants for Medical Costs

Under the CARES Act, there is now federal funding available for students who contract the coronavirus while at school. Schools are able to use the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOC) funding for emergency aid.

However, these emergency grants are to be dispersed in accordance with school policy. Each school has a different policy in place, so be sure to contact your financial aid and health offices directly for more information.

CARES Act and other Student Support

The CARES Act boasts a list of student support items that every student should be aware of. In addition to the resources and support offered through the CARES Act, there are many companies changing policies to help students in need.

Here are some highlights every student should know:

  • Pell Grant recipients are not required to pay back their aid if they have to drop out due to coronavirus diagnosis and treatment.
  • Federal Loans will not accrue interest on unsubsidized loans if currently in school. If you have to drop out for COVID-19, your balance for the term will be forgiven.
  • Loan repayments are suspended until September 30, 2020, without penalty.
  • U-Haul is offering 30 days of free storage for students forced to secure alternative housing.
  • Comcast and other providers are offering discounted internet access, and in some cases, offering 2 months of free in-home internet service.

Safety practices and guidelines are constantly changing as the pandemic evolves. Stay up-to-date with the latest information by checking in with the World Health Organization (WHO), The Center for Disease Control (CDC), and The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Use your best judgment, if you feel sick, email your professors, and don’t attend classes that day. Due to new safety practices, professors should have new attendance policies in place to help keep everyone safe and healthy.

While this school year is likely to be much different than you’d originally pictured, make the best of it. While keeping the CDC safety guidelines in mind, it’s very possible to still have a fun college experience.