What is the New Normal for Colleges and Universities?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Learn What the New Normal Looks Like at Colleges and Universities

With the back to school season well under way, students are preparing for fall semesters that will likely feel very different from years past. From remote learning models to mandatory quarantine periods, every college and university has its own approach to creating a new normal.

Whether you’re already enrolled in college or looking ahead to the future, many students are likely to be curious about what the new normal will look like at various institutions. Keep reading to learn more about the different outcomes the COVID-19 pandemic is having on colleges and what future applicants can expect. 

For Current College Students:

Many students who are enrolled in college for the Fall 2020 semester are preparing to arrive on campus. Although some schools have opted for remote learning models, other colleges have recently decided to reopen their doors to at least some of their student body. Specific protocols and restrictions vary vastly by institution and in accordance with state and local guidelines. Many students who plan on returning are expected to quarantine for their first two weeks on campus.

Some colleges that have opted to reopen are already reporting COVID-19 cases and adjusting their fall plans accordingly. Notre Dame is one example of a university that temporarily suspended in-person classes following a rise of infections. While in-person classes have since resumed, college students across the country should brace for the potential that they may encounter similar scenarios.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an entirely new challenge for colleges and universities and officials are still fine-tuning their approach to maximize student safety. Although individual protocols vary by institution, students can expect social distancing, limited in-person events and social gatherings, health monitoring, and reduced capacities in an effort to protect everyone on campus. Since school policies are continuing to evolve, it’s essential for current college students to stay updated on what is happening on their campus and reach out to their university to receive answers to any pressing questions.

For Prospective College Students

It’s not only current college students who are facing ongoing uncertainty; high schoolers who are getting ready to apply to their best-fit choices are also encountering an application cycle that will be unlike any other. One of the most noteworthy admissions changes is a rise in test-optional policies

Given that many SAT and ACT exams were canceled in the spring and summer, an increasing number of colleges have opted for temporary test-optional admissions practices. The list of schools that have adopted this practice includes Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Many applicants who have been preparing for standardized exams for years may now feel as if they are at a crossroads. Some students might opt to take a fall SAT or ACT exam, while others may choose to submit applications without a test score. While there is no singular best choice option, students should evaluate their needs and goals and come up with a plan that they feel confident in. It’s important to note that in the absence of SAT or ACT scores, soft factors like recommendation letters and personal essays are likely to carry additional weight. Particularly during these uncertain times, students shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to the admissions office to address any application-specific questions they may have.

While the fall of 2020 is likely to be a very unique academic semester for everyone, students should strive to stay positive and make the most of their new normal. Whether you’re learning in-person or online, it’s important to give every course your all and focus on your big-picture goals. If you’re looking for personalized support this fall, our team of college admissions experts and tutors can help you create an individualized strategy.

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