Will Colleges Be Open for Fall 2020?
For incoming college freshmen, the question of what the fall semester will look like is playing heavily into their enrollment decisions. For a lot of schools, decisions on what will happen this fall may come down to where those colleges are located. Some schools in more rural areas that weren’t as heavily impacted by COVID-19 cases may be able to reopen more quickly than campuses in hard-hit regions.
It is likely that there will not be a universal policy for all college campuses. Instead, expect an array of outcomes, with some colleges completely open and operating for the fall semester, while others utilize a hybrid learning model or opt to conduct classes exclusively online. Keep reading to learn more about some of the potential scenarios incoming college freshmen and returning students may encounter.
Colleges Hope to Welcome Students on Campus
In the best-case scenario, every college campus will be open to all students for the fall semester. From a financial standpoint, colleges need to be open. Operating budgets depend on tuition money and schools need students on campus to support resources such as the dining hall and bookstore.
Dozens of universities have already said that they are planning on a fall semester with in-person instruction. However, none of these decisions are finalized yet. Other colleges are holding off on making decisions until June at the earliest.
A Hybrid Model
One of the most popular potential solutions right now is to offer incoming students a hybridized learning experience that combines in-person instruction with virtual lessons. While policies will likely vary by institution, generally, this scenario has larger classes held virtually while smaller lectures will be moved to larger spaces to allow for better social distancing. Some colleges are considering turning on campus ballrooms into large classrooms to give students more space to spread out.
The model for residential living will also likely be adjusted to facilitate social distancing practices. Some institutions have considered buying up hotel or casino space to give students single rooms. Another option is that only freshmen will be invited on campus so that they can have the full experience. Similarly, some schools may just invite the freshmen and senior year students on campus, with sophomores and juniors going virtual for the upcoming year.
The third option being considered by many colleges is a fully virtual fall semester. While going fully virtual isn’t ideal, ultimately it may not be up to colleges themselves to make decisions about when to reopen. Schools must comply with local regulations; most universities aren’t considered “essential businesses.” so they were forced to close. In this scemario instruction will be completely online,
Starting and Ending the Semester Early
Another option that schools like Notre Dame, the University of South Carolina, and others have proposed is starting the semester 2-3 weeks early, canceling fall break, and ending the semester by Thanksgiving. This way students will be on campus the entirety of the semester and not traveling back and forth for fall break and the Thanksgiving holiday. This scenario would allow for a full academic semester, with still the possibility of some in-person and some virtual classes during that time period.
Delaying Until Spring 2021
A less likely scenario, but still one considered by many colleges early on, was delaying the start of the fall semester to January 2021 and running the school year through the summer. While that scenario seems less likely now due to financial concerns, some schools have not completely ruled out that option.
While a definitive answer on how colleges will operate this fall might not be available yet, students should keep tabs on news and stay in the know. If you are in the midst of your college search and looking for guidance, our team of admissions experts can provide personalized advice.