The coronavirus has changed how colleges operate across the United States. It has also changed what safety measures college students need to take while living or studying on campus.
Whether you’re attending in-person now or thinking about returning in-person for the spring semester, there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe and healthy during your time on campus.
Below, we’ll show you how to stay safe in college during the coronavirus pandemic.
What Does the CDC Have to Say about Going Back to College?
The CDC permitted colleges to resume in-person classes and on-campus housing for the 2020-2021 academic year. While they did release specific guidance for colleges and universities, the main tips for students are the same actions asked of all individuals living in the U.S.:
- Social distance: Keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others
- Wash your hands: Use soap and water or hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Wear a mask: Wear a cloth or disposable mask whenever you enter public spaces and common areas
View the full CDC page on Colleges & Universities here.
What are the Biggest Risks for Students Heading Off to College?
The biggest risks of attending college during the coronavirus are contracting the virus and passing it on to someone else.
College campuses house a lot of students who all use the same doors, stairwells, elevators, walkways, laundry facilities, classrooms, desks, gym facilities, bathrooms, dining halls, and eateries. Students and professors interact with one another and with off-campus individuals too.
In a college setting, one student might be around 100+ people each day just in classes alone. Add parties, dorm life, sporting events, waiting in line for meals, jobs, and internships into the mix, and there are a lot of opportunities for viral transmission.
What are Campuses Doing to Keep Students Safe During the Pandemic?
Colleges and universities had the summer months to create reopening plans for the fall semester that aligned with local, state, and federal guidelines. Campuses are doing what they can to minimize community spread while creating as typical of a college experience as possible.
These measures include:
- Adjusting class times and sizes to limit the number of people inside a classroom or building at any given time
- Providing more take-out options from on-campus eateries
- Offering hybrid models of learning or more online classes
- Requiring masks in all public spaces
- Limiting or eliminating spectators at sporting events
- Streaming campus events like theater performances or chapel online
- Asking all students and professor to abide by a health honor code
- Banning visitors on campus
- Creating remote work-study job opportunities for students
- Cleaning common areas more frequently
Even with campus-wide precautions in place, students—especially those at high risk or who live with high-risk individuals—can take more measures to reduce their risk.
Two Important First Steps for Students to Take
1. Adjust Your Expectations
First and foremost, college students need to accept that this academic year will be and needs to be different. This isn’t an easy task,—especially for seniors—but changing your expectations will help you embrace the changes that COVID-19 necessitated rather than fight them.
Campuses offer mental health services—many now remote—that can help students cope with the stress and disappointment of an unusual academic year. If you’re struggling, get help. You aren’t alone. Other resources include your Resident Director, Resident Assistant, or Academic Advisor.
2. Read Campus Policies
Each college, university, and institute of higher education created its own coronavirus plan in accordance with local, state, and federal guidelines. Make sure you know what your campus’ plan is and where to go to check for updates. This is especially important for commuter students who may only be on campus a couple days a week and miss important on-campus signs or announcements.
How Can College Students Reduce Exposure While They’re on a College Campus?
Thousands of people live on college campuses or come onto campus each day for work or classes. It’s a busy environment that may feel daunting if you’re concerned about the coronavirus.
College students can reduce exposure on campus by:
- Following all campus coronavirus health and safety protocol
- Socializing outdoors rather than indoors
- Maintaining 6 feet of distance between themselves and others
- Eating in their rooms or outdoors rather than in dining halls
- Avoiding risky activities like going to the movies, going to the bar, and attending large gatherings
- Keeping everyone out of their dorm room or apartment aside from roommates
- Limiting your circle of friends
- Limiting off-campus visits and travel
- Switching to mail or delivery services for groceries, prescriptions, and other essentials
- Choosing online classes, remote internships, and online jobs for college students when appropriate
- Washing or sanitizing their hands after touching common items like doorknobs, elevator buttons, or desks
- Sanitizing shared laundry machine control knobs after use
How Can I Protect Myself During the Coronavirus Outbreak if I Live with Roommates?
When it comes to roommates, open communication and clear expectations are key. This year, with COVID-19 in play, those two factors are even more important. College students should sit down with their roommates and have an honest discussion about the coronavirus. Your college or RA might provide guidance as to what that looks like. It may even be in the form of a roommate contract.
For students living off-campus with roommates during COVID-19, these conversations are even more crucial as you may not be bound to the same rules as on-campus students.
Talk with Your Roommates about a Coronavirus Plan
Some topics you should discuss include:
- Daily hygiene
- Plans for cleaning shared living spaces
- Mask-wearing and social distancing within the apartment
- Comfort levels regarding social events, off-campus travel, and activities outside of the room
- Whether or not visitors are allowed in
- A quarantine plan if someone has symptoms or becomes exposed
The conversation could yield several different outcomes because everyone’s situation is unique. What’s important is that you’re honest with your roommate(s) about your concerns and expectations. If you fall into the high-risk category, it’s even more important for you to get your roommates on board to minimize your risk of exposure as much as possible.
What Items Might College Students Need to Stay Safe From COVID-19?
College essentials go beyond extra-long twin sheets and bed risers this year. Equip your room and your backpack with the supplies needed to stay safe and smart during the coronavirus pandemic.
Must-Have Coronavirus Supplies for College Students in 2020
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfecting spray and wipes
- A large supply of reusable and/or disposable masks
- A lawn chair or picnic blanket for outdoor dining
- Non-perishable food items and bottled water
- Headphones with a built-in microphone for online classes
- Thermometer with extra batteries
What Should College Students Do If They are Exposed to the Virus?
Part of staying safe from the coronavirus involves following the proper steps if you think you’ve been exposed. Students should always follow their college or university’s coronavirus protocol for potential exposure.
The protocol varies greatly from school to school. If you are unsure about what to do, remain away from others, and contact the campus health center.
The health center might ask you to do some of the following:
- Come to the health center—or somewhere else on campus—to receive a coronavirus test
- Stop attending classes or any in-person activities until the health center can assess your case
- Pack a bag with enough supplies for two weeks to prepare for on-campus quarantine
- Quarantine for two weeks and attend all classes and activities online
Again, every school has its own protocol. Make sure you know your school’s protocol.
The Bottom Line on How to Stay Safe in College During Coronavirus Pandemic
Overall, use your common sense when it comes to staying safe from the coronavirus. Follow your school’s protocol, take whatever extra safety measures make you feel comfortable, and be respectful of your roommate’s, classmate’s, and professor’s choices too.
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (2)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (3)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 1/27/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Ascent: Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 11/1/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.
*The minimum amount is $2,001 except for the state of Massachusetts. Minimum loan amount for borrowers with a Massachusetts permanent address is $6,001.