The world’s response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus left no aspect of life untouched. People from all walks of life had to make sacrifices to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus, and college students were no exception.
Many colleges and universities abruptly canceled in-person classes in mid-March 2020, forcing students to finish their coursework via remote learning. That response had a significant impact on the 2019-20 school year, and the virus figures to affect the upcoming school year just as much. In fact, many colleges and universities are beginning the coming school year early in the hopes that students can continue their educations on campus but be safely back home by late November, when many scientists are anticipating a second wave of COVID-19 infections will arrive.
Schools that are reopening this summer insist that it is safe to do so, and have even indicated their intentions to implement new practices to ensure their campuses are safe and healthy environments in which to learn. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is reconfiguring in-person course instruction to include physical distancing provisions. Small classes will meet in larger spaces, while lectures may be delivered remotely.
Despite such measures, some students may still be hesitant to return to campus at a time when so much about the COVID-19 virus remains a mystery. The following are some ways students can confront any nervous feelings they may have about returning to campus for a new school year.
• Determine your options. While many colleges and universities are returning to campus, some may be allowing students to learn remotely. For instance, students with preexisting conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 may be allowed to continue learning from home. Many schools’ roadmaps to returning are fluid, so students concerned about returning to campus likely have options that do not require them to sit out the semester.
• Learn about residential life. Many college students live in dorms that feature double or even triple occupancy rooms. Such an environment will compromise students’ ability to practice social distancing. Some schools, including Binghamton University in New York, are converting triple occupancy rooms into double occupancy. Both Binghamton and UNC Chapel Hill also are designating one residential hall as temporary housing for students who test positive for COVID-19. In addition, some schools may be designating certain residential facilities for at-risk students. Students who want to avoid the dorms should inquire about off-campus, single-person housing.
• Ask about testing. Students have a right to know about COVID-19 testing protocols and should not hesitate to ask what those protocols will be. Due to the fluid nature of schools’ roadmaps to return, testing policies may not yet be set in stone, and are likely to evolve as the school year progresses. Students should look into the testing policy specifics and ask if they have any recourse if they feel the testing policy is inadequate.
Students who are hesitant to return to campus this summer or fall can do their due diligence to determine if they’re comfortable going back to campus.
Extracurricular activities can enrich students’ school experience. An enjoyable extracurricular activity can help students apply lessons learned in the classroom while also making it possible for them to expand on those lessons while having some fun and meeting some new people.
Many students find extracurricular activities that can provide both social and academic benefits. For example, student-athletes may learn the value of perseverance and working with others by participating in team sports. However, some students may not find the right fit when looking for extracurricular activities, prompting them to explore starting their own clubs at school. Such an endeavor can be rewarding, and there are certain steps students can take to make their efforts more successful.
• Speak with school officials. It’s best to get the go-ahead from school officials before doing too much heavy lifting. Schools may have rules in place that prohibit certain types of clubs. For example, schools may prohibit poker clubs or other activities rooted in games of chance. So it benefits students to get the go-ahead from school officials before moving forward. Officials also may mandate that any club officially affiliated with the school must have a designated faculty advisor, so students should have someone in mind once they learn the club is allowed.
• Gauge student interest. Students thinking of starting their own club should gauge the interest of fellow students as well. Some schools may require a minimum number of members, so speak with friends and classmates to gauge interest. High school students can speak with students in all grade levels, as extracurricular activities should be all-inclusive and not exclude potential members because they’re underclassmen.
• Decide your goal. Extracurricular clubs should have a defined purpose so members can get the most out of it. For example, a school film club may aspire to introduce classic movies to young film fans, but also to discuss the techniques filmmakers employed in making the films. A stated purpose can help ensure club meetings stay the course and don’t get sidetracked.
• Learn the ropes of being a club officer. School-sponsored clubs require some considerable effort to maintain. Students who want to start their own club can speak with officers of existing clubs for pointers on everything from organization to fundraising. Clubs should have some structure, and officers from existing clubs can be great resources when trying to develop that structure in a new clubs.
• Have fun. Of course, one of the goals of any extracurricular activity is to have fun. Club founders and officers should keep that in mind and aim to make sure each meeting is fun for all members.
Students who start new clubs at school can employ various strategies to ensure such clubs are fun for all.