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Coronavirus and US Campuses: What to Expect This Fall

virtual classroom
By Selene Angier
Last updated on March 19, 2021

With coronavirus impacts, US college campuses will have a different setup than usual. If you are planning to study in the US as an international student, here is what your fall semester may be like.

Two international students wearing face masks sit six feet apart while studying outside on a US college campus

International students returning to study in the US this fall will need to pack a few extra things — including patience, understanding, and, above all, new expectations. From dorm life to classrooms, everything will be different when you return to campus. As US universities begin to reopen later this summer, it will be important for you to connect with your school and understand how things are changing due to COVID-19.    

In looking at new coronavirus-related policies and guidelines, you will want to know how these changes will impact the four major facets of your daily college life: taking classes, living on campus, dining, and working at a campus job or internship. Let’s take a look. 

Taking Classes 

Every school will be implementing their own course instruction types this fall — and you will need to check your school’s website to confirm your university’s action plan — but three likely scenarios are emerging across schools: all classes will be in person (with new safety protocols in place); all classes will be conducted online; or classes will follow a hybrid model (which means a mix of both in person and online instruction).

In Fall 2020, it is likely that most Shorelight partner universities will follow a hybrid model. 

Marshall Houserman, director of enrollment for UIC Global, an international student-focused partnership between Shorelight and the University of Illinois at Chicago, tells us that UIC will be using a hybrid model for classes this fall. The university’s COVID team has been working with the Department of Public Health to follow guidelines from the state’s Restore Illinois plan, and regularly posts all updates on the Circle Back to Campus website.

Houserman emphasizes that student and staff safety is a top concern. Face coverings will be required in classroom spaces, and the school is providing reusable, washable masks to students. 

Shorelight partner Auburn University, as outlined in their COVID information portal, is also requiring face coverings in classrooms and is calling for social distancing among students. For course instruction, Auburn is also implementing a hybrid approach when classes begin in August. The four modes of delivery will be:

  • Face-to-face

  • Online

  • Blended, which will incorporate both live and recorded instruction

  • HyFlex, which will offer some face-to-face instruction and some remote instruction delivered in real time

Many schools are also working on accommodations for students and faculty in higher risk groups or for those limited by travel restrictions. Some schools have decided to shorten the semester calendar. Mid-term breaks may be eliminated, and some schools, like Auburn, are ending in-person courses before Thanksgiving, and implementing reading days and conducting all final exams online. 

It should be emphasized: these are planned protocols. Reverting to remote instruction, like universities did in the spring, may be a possibility, depending on COVID-19 activity in your campus’s city or state. 

Living in Dorm Rooms

US universities are also looking at changes for on-campus living. UIC, for instance, is limiting occupancy to two students per room, and non-UIC visitors will not be allowed in dorms. Designated quarantine areas within UIC residence halls are being created, in the event a student becomes sick. Cleaning services and hand sanitizer will also be offered. 

Sean Busenlener, the managing director for Auburn Global at Auburn University, says Auburn Global students live in apartments with private bedrooms and bathrooms and shared common spaces among three or four students. Kitchens and bathrooms will be cleaned biweekly, and students can choose to have their bedroom cleaned biweekly, too. 

Guidelines around outside visitors, social gatherings, and move-in procedures will differ at all schools, so be sure to check with your university’s policies. 

Eating in Dining Halls

Ahh, yes — food! An important focus in the daily life of a college student. Dining halls and cafeterias may continue to operate a little differently this fall, by limiting dine-in capacity or encouraging to-go meals instead.

“Many, if not all, campus dining options will likely be a grab-and-go setup,” says Busenlener of Auburn University’s dining plans. For added flexibility, Auburn Global is also offering delivery options

Internships and Working On Campus

Do you have an internship or work-study job lined up for this fall? If your employment offer proceeds as scheduled, it will likely be subject to coronavirus safety protocols. 

“Despite the pandemic situation, many of our students have successfully secured and completed internships this summer,” says Houserman at UIC. “One of our students was selected for the Summer Series virtual internship at Goldman Sachs, where she will be attending online meetings and job shadowing through Zoom.” 

Limits on the number of workers in the office at one time, temperature checks, face coverings, and social distancing may be a part of your new daily routine (as if it isn’t already). Before starting your internship, externship, or work-study job, connect with your advisor or manager to understand their coronavirus policies that will impact your work. 

A New Semester, A New Outlook 

Last semester was different because of the pandemic, and this next semester will be different, too. But rest assured, universities have been working tirelessly on COVID-19 safety protocols and are looking forward to welcoming students back to campus this fall. That means all the things it has always meant — succeeding in classes, having fun, meeting new people, and being safe. 

Busenlener concurs: “I am confident that we will be able to work together to make this fall an unforgettable experience. The Auburn Family will be here to support you every step of the way!”

Shorelight advisors are with you every step of the way, too. Have questions about COVID-19 updates or applying to one of our partner universities? Talk to an advisor >>