13 Jul 2020

What’s Happening on College Campuses this Fall?

As college students anxiously await news from their universities regarding what campus life (or lack thereof) will look like this fall, several schools have come out with announcements about reopening. Realistically, with COVID-19 cases spiking once again, the fall semester remains uncertain. However, several top schools have begun to set a precedent by announcing their plans for partial reopening. Keeping in mind that all plans are subject to change (public health crisis pending), here’s what we know so far as the following schools set a trend for the fall… 

Harvard 

On July 6th, Harvard announced that it will open its dorms to incoming freshmen this fall and ask sophomores, juniors, and seniors to seek approval to return to campus. In addition to freshmen, Harvard will house students who “must be on campus to progress academically,” namely those who do not have adequate resources to study off campus, struggle with housing insecurity, or require access to lab facilities. They have set a 40% upper limit on the percentage of the student body that will be invited back to campus. 

Though some students will be onsite in the fall, all courses will be taught virtually for students both on and off campus. Their rationale for encouraging freshmen to live on campus, despite all classes going virtual, is the potential for building a network of faculty, advisors, and friends that comes with living on campus.

University of Pennsylvania

UPenn, on the other hand, announced on June 25th that they will be inviting all students back to campus in the fall under a hybrid instruction model. Classes are scheduled to begin in person (to the extent possible) on September 1st and end on November 20th. (Classes of less than 25 students will be allowed to meet in person, to be held in larger-than-normal spaces.) The remainder of the semester, as well as final exams, will be conducted remotely. They will also offer the option to access all fall course material remotely if students are unable to return to campus. 

Housing-wise, UPenn will only guarantee housing for first-years, sophomores, and transfer students. These students will be housed in private bedrooms. 

Cornell

Cornell plans to follow UPenn’s lead, announcing on June 30th that they will welcome all students back to its Ithaca campus for the fall semester, blending in-person and online instruction. 

Like UPenn, the in-person semester is set to begin on September 2nd. Students will then return home for Thanksgiving break and finish the term virtually. For those unable to return to Ithaca, Cornell assures students there will be remote learning options available. 

MIT 

On July 7th, MIT released their plan to invite a maximum of 60% of the student body back to campus in the fall, prioritizing seniors and others who require in-person instruction and facilities to complete their coursework. There will be remote instruction available for all students off campus. For students on campus, there will be a combination of online and in-person instruction available. 

Like UPenn and Cornell, MIT classes will begin September 1st and students will depart campus before Thanksgiving. To minimize travel, all undergraduates will continue classes remotely through December. 

Yale

Yale announced on July 1st that they will be welcoming a portion of the student body back to campus in the fall. In each semester, three of the four undergraduate classes will be permitted to live and study on campus, in order to reduce normal density. Seniors and juniors may be on campus for the full year. First-years may study on campus during the fall and sophomores during the spring. Courses will be delivered in a hybrid “residential-remote” format in which professors largely teach online, with in-person instruction in some cases — including discussion sections, lab, and studio courses. 

As colleges piece together creative solutions in response to the current crisis, we anticipate getting more clarity in the coming weeks. Though we are seeing common trends in hybrid learning models and housing availability, each school is taking a slightly different approach to reopening. All of these schools make explicitly clear that students will be held to strict behavioral and testing requirements — presumably social distancing, mask-wearing, and regular COVID testing. 

As always, we are here to help navigate this challenging time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. Above all, we hope everyone is staying safe and well!

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