What college students need to be aware of going back to school, How will COVID-19 change our college experience in the long run?

Texas People FCU Blog

In the midst of an unprecedented crisis, it can be hard to see more than a few days into the future. It’s as if we were wandering around in a dense fog.


For millions of college students in the United States and across the globe, the last semester turned out looking a little different than the last. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many college campuses had been forced to suspend onsite classes for the duration of the school year. Whether you’re taking online classes or are pausing on academia for the foreseeable future, there’s no question that our current situation has invited some unwanted uncertainty into your college plans.


But when people suggest “things will never be the same,” they’re talking about something deeper, about how we live—about our habits, norms, and ways of living. For parents, teachers, and students, it’s possible that some aspects of college and college life might not go back to the way they were before.


“The University of Texas at Austin plans to open this fall and close at Thanksgiving” says professor Art Markman, who heads up fall planning at the university.


“Open is going to be not open in the way that campuses are traditionally open,” he says. “It’s going to be an on-campus experience, but not one that’s like what we’ve seen in the past.”


The largest classes will be taught online, while those that are in person will be held in larger rooms at 40% capacity, Markman says. Students and faculty will also be required to wear face masks during in-person classes.


Brown University is exploring a similar model. President Christina Paxson told NPR the school plans to welcome students back to campus this fall with some provisions.


“I’m imagining something where the large lectures are captured and students watch them online,” Paxson says, “and then they come together in small discussion groups to talk about the issues, to work through problem sets, things like that.”


While most students at UT Austin live off campus, Markman says dorms will be available at limited capacity, including smaller rooms that usually house two students housing just one student.


Markman says UT Austin wants to see how the fall semester plays out before developing plans for the spring.


“Our expectation is from the beginning that the coronavirus is here with us for the foreseeable future, and we are planning with the assumption that there won’t be either a cure or a vaccine widely available until next year, probably about a year from now,” he says. “Our plan is to assume that what we do in the fall will be substantially similar in the spring.”


Markman says UT Austin, which already has a robust online education program, is prepared to welcome students back to campus without sacrificing the quality of their education.


“I think we’re providing a really great experience for the students,” he says. “And so we’re not really giving them less. We’re just changing up the modality.”


But with a solid support system and some navigational help, making it through the next year is entirely doable! We’ve got some tips for college students dealing with anxiousness surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. From connecting with friends to staying motivated in school, we’re here to help make this transition as seamless as possible.


First, if you are staying in an off-campus apartment or house, talk to your landlord about policies and procedures associated with COVID and your lease. Make sure you fill out any paperwork you need to.


Second, Given social-distancing rules and recommendations, you’ll want to be as careful as you can when moving into your space. To protect yourself and others, be sure to sanitize your belongings before and after you move, and practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. If you have family, friends, or movers helping you, be sure to ask that they follow these guidelines, too.


Third, One of the biggest challenges college students are currently facing is going to be adjusting to life back and forth from college to home.


Fourth, One neat thing about college is that you get to meet people from near and far, so you might find yourself thousands of miles away from your best friend. While you weren’t able to plan a cross-country road trip to visit them over the summer, there are plenty of ways for you to stay connected while abiding by health and safety recommendations.


Biggest thing is keep your budget intact.


If you’re like many college students, this crisis is throwing off your academic or professional plans to some degree. Whether or not you expect to alter your plans, preparing as much as you can is always a good idea, especially if you’ve incurred student loan debt. It may be tempting to engage in some retail therapy to get through these hard times, but keeping an eye on your budget will go a long way in minimizing the financial impact of COVID-19.


To help you stay on top of your budgeting needs, stay true to college living—you probably won’t need to change much if you’ve already started to practice some frugality on your student budget. Download a budgeting app to help you track your expenses and eliminate any extra costs that no longer make sense for your situation. If you were paying for a gym membership, for example, you can probably pause it to save money for the time being. Conducting a financial audit and tweaking your budget will set you up for financial success when school is finally back in session!


There’s no road map for getting through these unprecedented times, but with these tips, we hope you can stay safe and healthy while you finish off the school semester strong!