Preparing for Fall Like No Other

Area college students reflect on how pandemic affects their plans.

As the fall semester approaches, Virginia colleges have begun to make plans to reopen with precautions to keep students, faculty and staff safe from COVID-19.

Even living on campus, students will experience a very different version of college this fall.

James Madison University is “putting in two one-hour blocks to clean the campus per day,” said Springfield resident and JMU student Griffin Evans. The university is also considering prohibiting off-campus students, like Evans, from having meal plans.

Others do not know for sure what their college will look like in the fall.

“There are no concrete plans for GMU’s fall 2020 semester as of today. Classes with an option for online sessions are preferred over in-person sections, but classes that do not offer online sessions are still in debate over whether to make a push for online or in-person classes,” said Fairfax resident and George Mason University student Andy Tran.

Some students have fallen behind because of the pandemic.

“[COVID-19] has made me take less classes to reduce risk and limit time on campus. I would be taking six but I’m taking four in person and one online. It is going to set me back and I will have to take classes next summer to catch up,” said Evans.

“I’m going to be taking paramedic classes which cannot be taken online,” said Northern Virginia Community College student and Fairfax Station resident Peter Nichols. “I was planning to apply to Fairfax County Fire Rescue right after I got my paramedic certification and my AAS in emergency services, but if they don’t have classes in the fall I’m going to have to wait an entire semester or maybe even another year to be able to apply. If they don’t end up holding the classes I’m probably just going to go to a private, paramedic-focused institution to finish out my certification.” He says this will be more costly than attending NOVA, but it will be faster.

ONE STUDENT has had her life turned upside down because of the pandemic.

“My family was planning on moving at the end of this year, but then the world shut down so those plans got put on hold. When things began to open up the opportunity came to move in a couple of weeks, so my parents took it. Now I have to transfer all my credits and find a school in Pennsylvania. I’m thinking of transferring to another community college for RN [registered nursing] to get my RN degree,” said Northern Virginia Community College student and Lorton resident Kate Mansfield. “My college plans have changed quite a bit without much notice.”

Some students would prefer to have classes online.

“I prefer to have online classes, as they allow me more freedom in my day. In-person classes would be less beneficial since social distancing means less social contact, and face masks are a huge distraction to students and teachers,” said Tran.

“I would like to take as many online classes as I can because I like to work at my own pace, but for nursing I feel like in-person classes would be required because it’s a hands-on job!” said Mansfield.

OVERALL, most students are thankful to be able to continue their education in the fall, even if things will be different.

“As a freshman, my college plans are flexible and not yet set in stone. Though I see my friends less often, I am personally not too affected by these circumstances as I am still attaining the education I need for my career,” said Tran. “COVID-19 is just a minor inconvenience in my college plans and life goals.”

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