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Preparing for An Online College Fall Semester

 

While we are all adjusting to a “new normal” during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is college students who are really feeling the impact of this health crisis. While many colleges are still planning for an in-person experience, the actual day-to-day college life will likely come with modifications and restrictions. It is important that college students have realistic expectations of what the fall college experience will be like. The following are some changes that colleges may be making when they resume this fall:

Orientation Will Be Virtual:

College freshmen are likely to face a very different orientation experience. Whereas orientation used to be a time for new college students to meet their fellow classmates on campus, this fall is likely to have virtual orientations. Some examples include virtual welcomes from online student organizations and resource fairs, Q & A video sessions, zoom calls between students and faculty advisers, and lots of recorded sessions that can be watched at a later time.

It is completely understandable if virtual orientation leaves students feeling disappointed. College is something that young people may have been looking forward to for a long time. But we all hope that this is a temporary situation and eventually there will be a return to the in-person, on-campus experience that students imagined when they sent in their applications last fall.

Fall Semester May Start and End Early:

Many colleges are re-thinking their academic calendars. One popular model is to start fall classes earlier and end instruction at the Thanksgiving break. The idea is that by the virus is more likely to spread if students go home for Thanksgiving and then return to campus for a few more week until the holiday break. By limiting travel, the hope is that the risk of the virus will be limited as well.

Face Masks Will Be Mandatory, There May Be Lots Of Physical Barriers And The Dining Hall Will Look Different

Colleges will likely follow state health guidelines and require students to wear masks on campus when outside of their dorm rooms. Also, the plastic shield that is used at the grocery store cashier area will probably be installed in dining halls and in classrooms. This may be unsettling for students but again, it is all part of our new normal.

One aspect of college life that will really feel different is the dining hall. Meal times used to be a great way to hang out and make new friends. But colleges are now likely to offer grab-and-go options with disposable dishes and utensils. But students can still have a meal with a friend: they just need to find a table outside and maintain space between each other. Hopefully students will be back in the dining hall in the spring.

Classes Are On-Line

For some students, this is the most difficult aspect of attending college this fall. Taking an online class requires motivation, determination, and executive functioning skills which may be challenging for neurodivergent students. For example, students with ADHD often utilize the strategy of sitting in the front row of a classroom in order to focus and pay attention. Attending a class via Zoom from one’s bedroom requires a much higher level of filtering out distractions.

August is a good time to make the necessary preparations for a successful fall semester. Contact your college and inquire what guidelines will be in place to keep students safe. Making arrangements for a Parent, Friend or Life Coach to provide support and assistance with staying on track with assignments and projects will also allow students to achieve academic success.

The fall college experience will be unique. But preparing is the best way to handle uncertainty. Students who are flexible and maintain a positive mindset are sure to do just fine.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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