Summer is coming to an end. Many incoming college students are longing for the day they can move into campus housing, attend athletics events, study, and spend time with friends on campus. Due to COVID-19, first-year college students will not be able to enjoy the traditional freshman experience.…the first six to eight weeks of an incoming student’s college career are critical to student retention.
Leaders at colleges and universities across the country have the responsibility to determine when to reopen campuses and how to do it safely. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 58% of colleges have plans to hold in-person courses in the fall semester. As the number of COVID-19 cases has increased over the past weeks, we can expect to see colleges offering only critical classes, such as science labs, in person.
Although each university will classify critical courses differently, research reveals that the first six to eight weeks of an incoming student’s college career are critical to student retention. In light of this, one can expect that many colleges will hold introductory courses on campus for new first-year students. What can incoming college freshmen expect of their first year?
Wear Face Coverings
Students should be prepared to wear face masks in classrooms, libraries, and other places on campus when social distancing is difficult. Some campuses may choose to design and offer free face masks with university colors and logos. This will give students the chance to sport their face mask in style.
Practice Social Distancing
Students can expect classroom furniture and seating to be rearranged. The arrangements will allow colleges to fit fewer students in the same space or the same number of students in a larger space. Students may not be able to use smaller spaces such as library study rooms unless social distancing can be maintained. In-person interactions with instructors, librarians, and other staff members could take place behind plexiglass screens. Classrooms may have separate doors designated for entry and exit.
Reconfigured Course Schedules
Students could notice staggered or rotated class schedules. The new class format would help accommodate smaller class sizes. With the new structure, freshmen should have more time to practice social distancing measures and not have to rush between classes. This would also provide time for classrooms to be cleaned and disinfected.
Redesigned Campus Housing
Freshmen who choose to live on campus will experience major changes in residential halls. Many campuses plan to eliminate triple dorm rooms. Students who dread living with another person may get a break because some institutions will be offering every student living on campus a single room.
Colleges and universities across the country continue to have a great deal of uncertainty about the fall semester. Richard Hesel points out that prospective freshmen have a high degree of trust in colleges as they make plans for the fall semester. Colleges are faced with the responsibility of making sure first-year students experience some sort of normalcy, as well as helping them stay safe and healthy.
- The First-Year Experience During a Pandemic: The Impact of COVID-19 on Orientation
- The First-Year Transition: Supporting Incoming College Students with Infobase in Uncertain Times: Webinar
- Hesel, R. (2020). What prospective freshmen think about the fall. Retrieved from https://www-chronicle-com.tamusa.idm.oclc.org/article/What-Prospective-Freshmen/248681
- The Chronicle of Higher Education. (2020). Here’s a list of colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall. Retrieved from https://www-chronicle-com.tamusa.idm.oclc.org/article/Here-s-a-List-of-Colleges-/248626