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Student Life

COVID on Campus — Late Fall Update

Ianni Le


As we settle into a reality of booster shots, continuously updated mask mandates and tracking the Delta variant, our college students continue to work hard to make the best of an unconventional higher education experience.

Campus Experiences Have Varied This Fall

When it comes to COVID-19 protocols, there are big differences among campuses. While many students have seen campus life return to something close to pre-pandemic normalcy, others are grappling with what they feel are overbearing COVID rules and restrictions.

Earlier this fall, Amherst College students pushed back hard against the school’s COVID-19 regulations, which included restricting student travel off campus, outdoor mask mandates and more in response to the Delta variant. Students expressed their frustrations after a year of remote learning and strict COVID-19 rules, desperate for a return to a more normal campus experience. The college has since eased up on certain restrictions and the students remain hopeful for a more typical college experience as the academic year goes on.

Many universities have scrambled to enforce vaccine mandates for faculty and staff as well as students, while others are dealing with vaccine mandate backlash. Some states have banned employers (including public universities) from enforcing vaccine mandates. These orders include K–12 and higher ed school systems, making it difficult for institutions to ensure that the majority of their student body and faculty are vaccinated.

Some schools have also had to shift to remote learning for short periods of time after significant outbreaks to help minimize the spread. The University of Dallas hit pause on all in-person instruction for a few weeks in September to mitigate a surge in COVID cases, in part due to a severe case where a student was sent to the emergency room and the fact that the university’s isolation rooms were completely full. The quick remote learning break helped the university get a handle on the situation before returning to in-person classes. 

Harvard Business School also moved a portion of their MBA program online for a week earlier this fall in response to a sudden rise in infections. Harvard has since increased the frequency of COVID testing and asked students to significantly limit group interactions and travel.

Find a state-by-state breakdown of colleges that have instituted vaccine mandates for the 2021–2022 academic year here >

How Can I Help My Student?

Though campus life is still impacted by COVID-19, the good news is that the U.S. has a stronger grip on the situation than this time last year. College students are learning to be flexible, resilient, responsive to the needs of their communities and proactive about their own health.

Even when there isn't a pandemic, late fall can be stressful for college students. Here are some ways to support your student from now until winter break:

  • Make sure they have supplies on hand in case of illness (over-the-counter medications, non-perishable food).
  • Encourage preventative health measures like a seasonal flu shot. Talk about the importance of sleep!
  • Be prepared to listen a lot when they're home for Thanksgiving break, especially if they're frustrated or disappointed by their academic or social experience this fall. It's common this time of year for students (especially first years) to talk about wanting to transfer.
  • Be ready with support and advice for finishing the semester strong.
  • Stay up to date with news from the college or university by signing up for alerts and newsletters; check the website regularly.
  • A care package is always a good idea!

Get our tips for safe holiday travel during COVID-19 here >

Ianni Le is a freelance writer and content creator. She attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating with a degree in Media Design and English Literature. Ianni grew up in Shanghai, China and enjoys her dogs, books and food equally.

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