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Returning to Campus in the Fall: What to Look for

Back to normal may still be a lofty goal for college campuses across the country. But if you’re starting your freshman college year after a pretty unusual senior year of high school, you may not know what to expect when you step onto campus in the fall. And while safety has always been among the considerations for choosing a college, in light of the pandemic, “safe” has a whole new meaning. Make certain the school you choose to attend adheres to federal guidelines and meets your personal requirements for safe pandemic protocols. Here are the 14 pandemic protocols you should consider before returning to campus in the fall:

1. Communication About COVID-19 Safety

Regardless of the protocols put in place by your institution, they will not be helpful if you don’t know about them. Your school should have a means to keep you informed of what they are doing to prevent the spread of the virus and a way to quickly let you know of an outbreak. Look at your school’s website and intranet. Is there a regularly updated dashboard or student portal to find out about new cases and trends? Can you receive email and text message alerts? When you have questions, can you get timely answers?

2. COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements

Is there a mandatory vaccination policy in place?

3. COVID-19 Testing

As a safety measure, mandatory COVID-19 testing will likely occur when you step on campus. But inquire how often testing is available and whether it is a regular requirement for students, a spot check measure, or voluntary. With the university provide on-campus testing and are they able to provide rapid results?

4. Occupancy Limits During a Pandemic

Reduced occupancy for dorms, floors, classrooms, cafeterias, and arenas can help reduce the spread of the virus in the event of an outbreak. What are the school’s policies and its abilities to monitor adherence?

5. Cleaning and Disinfecting

Ramped up cleaning will likely be in effect at whichever university you choose to attend. But areas of focus should include:

  • Trained cleaning personnel
  • Frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces
  • Regular disinfection
  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • Free airflow from outdoor air
  • Properly functioning ventilation systems
  • HEPA filters

6. Available Instructional Options

Even if you plan to attend on-campus, in class, find out what the plan is if you need to take your classes online. If you become uncomfortable with in-class instruction or are quarantined due to an outbreak, you won’t want to miss class.

7. Masking Rules During COVID-19

What are the requirements for indoor and outdoor mask-wearing?

8. Social Distancing

What are the rules for social distancing, especially in confined spaces like classrooms and dorm rooms? Find out how the university encourages and enforces safe social distancing practices for its staff and students.

9. Visitors During a Pandemic

Are there restrictions on visitors to campus, events, and indoor spaces?

10. Athlete Rules and Requirements

As an athlete you may be subjected to additional COVID-19 safety protocols including pre-physicals, additional education and training, on-campus physicals, and spot temperature checks and testing. Transportation to and from events may be at reduced capacity and there will likely be training room limits. The number of spectators at home and away events may also be limited.

11. Quarantine for Positive COVID-19

What is the plan for quarantine? Find out if there is a regular reporting tool you can access to determine how many people on campus may be infected and what steps are taken to isolate them. Does the school have an on-campus plan that includes housing for students who test positive?

12. Healthcare Resources

Does the college health center have trained personnel, with appropriate PPE and equipment, who can assess student health and direct you to appropriate medical personnel if you become ill? How far away is the nearest hospital or healthcare facility?

13. Mental Health Assistance

Freshmen often experience a range of emotions when they set off to college. It’s normal to worry about fitting in, getting along, keeping up, and missing home. Adding a global pandemic to the mix can amp up your anxiety and exacerbate any preexisting mental health concerns you may have. Make certain the school you plan to attend is mindful of pandemic stress and has a plan to help you through it. Your college years can be among the most exciting times of your life. Even if you begin during a pandemic, you want to end in success.

14. Consequences

With all the effort your new school will put in place to keep you safe, what happens when you or your peers break the rules? Don’t break the rules. But know what happens if you do.


Bluefield University has an extensive list of COVID-19 safety protocols for resuming in-person instruction this fall. We cover the 14 pandemic protocols and more. We also offer a Christian-based approach to higher education that will help you achieve academic, personal, career, and spiritual fulfillment. Contact us today to learn more.

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