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My Son's College is Closing Because of Coronavirus. Now What?

Marlene Kern Fischer


It was inevitable. One by one my friends have been telling me that their kids’ colleges were closing because of the coronavirus pandemic and that they would be finishing out the year by taking their classes online.

Today we got the email from my son’s school calling it.

My son goes to school in the Boston area. Luckily we live in Westchester County, New York which is less than a three-hour drive away. Right now the plan is to go get him by next weekend. We don’t want to stay in a hotel so we will do the round trip in a day.

A year ago I was lamenting the fact that I would soon have an empty nest. Now I’m lamenting the fact that my son’s freshman year is being cut short.

He’s far from alone. In another week or two there may be no universities still open. Undergraduates and graduate students are scrambling to make arrangements to get home. Some have to return to other countries. Many students who were studying abroad had to come home. For seniors, commencement is up in the air.

I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that my son will be home for more than five months. Other than taking his classes online and doing schoolwork, how will he spend his time?

He will want to hang out with friends. Do I allow that? He and his camp buddies love to go to a local chicken wings place. Do I want him in a restaurant? Do I want him at their houses? How much online video gaming can he play?

He won’t be able to get a part-time job. No one is hiring.

He’s 18 and has a lot of energy. Being cooped up is going to be tough on all of us.

It’s not even spring yet and spring has been pretty much been cancelled. And I don’t mean the weather; I mean everything else. My husband and I were invited to a bar-mitzvah that was supposed to take place later this month; the bar-mitzvah boy will recite his torah portion from home and the party will be postponed. Business trips are being called off.

My oldest son is supposed to be getting married on July 2 in Washington, D.C. and my nephew is getting married Memorial Day weekend in California. Will those things still happen? I mean, I know they will get married, but when and how now seems up in the air.

I'm trying to look on the bright side of things. Is there one?

Perhaps our kids will learn resilience. For many young people, this may be the first time their plans get changed in such a dramatic fashion. I feel disappointed for them.

Quite frankly, the news is terrifying. Hearing about Italy and other countries where the virus is already more widespread makes me certain that the schools are making the right call. My almost daughter and son have been working from home; I’m thinking anyone who is able to telecommute should be allowed to do so.

I want to reassure my children, to tell them all will be fine. I want to be reassured myself.

All we can do is deal with the present and not look too far into the future.

In the meantime, I told my son to get some garbage bags to throw his clothes into and start packing.

Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons, food shopper extraordinaire, blogger and essay editor. She attended Brandeis University, from which she graduated cum laude with a degree in English Literature. A founding contributor and advisor at CollegiateParent, her work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Grown and Flown, Parent and Co., Kveller, Her View From Home, the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, MockMom, Better After 50, Beyond Your Blog and The SITS Girls. You can read more of Marlene's work on her site, "Thoughts From Aisle Four."
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Katherine Schlesinger
Katherine Schlesinger
7 months ago

I get it. For my son it's a cross country trip home, which means orgnaizing the packing and storage of his dorm room while trying to complete classes and meet a critical scholarship deadline on April 1. I'm not sure how it will all happen but it seems to always work out. I will be holding my breath during his plane trip home, hoping noone on the flight sneezes. My son wil be super busy finishing school and interviewing on line for summer internships, but it will be hard to get him as age 21 to not go out and see his friends. At that age they feel invincible. It's a scary time for parents, esp sandwich parents with elderly parents as well as children. Thank you for your writing.

Dar Jax
Dar Jax
7 months ago

U r so right coming to the realization that we may have our kids home until August is an eye opener. Meaning the cost of everything will rise upon their return lol. How I make light of this new unforeseen development. In this uncertain times I would rather he be at home then six hours away at college. One part of the everyday stress equation alleviated.

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