7 College Students Share Their Honest Opinions About Going Back to Campus in the Fall

As the fall semester draws closer, colleges and universities in the United States have begun to make plans for the new school year. On Monday, Harvard University announced that up to 40% of undergraduates will be allowed to learn on campus, tuition remaining the same for all students regardless of how they take classes. Princeton University, meanwhile, only plans to allow freshmen and juniors to return to campus for the fall semester, while sophomores and seniors can return for the spring semester. As more and more schools roll out their teaching plans amidst an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, students face a variety of fears.

I spoke to seven college students to gauge how they’re feeling about campus re-opening and their hopes for the fall semester. Here’s what they had to say:

Trying to make the best of it

“I’m not very excited about going back to school because I’ve been home for so long and on my own schedule that I’m going to have to get used to waking up early again, holding myself accountable for deadlines, working in between classes, etc. I’m also not excited because this is my last semester of college and I’m not going to be able to enjoy it in the ways I’ve enjoyed college thus far. I took college for granted not realizing how long COVID-19 would go on. I sound so selfish because as Kourtney Kardashian said to Kim, ‘People are dying!’ But in all seriousness, there’s not going to be the final s’mores and karaoke night on my campus and no events held by clubs. I won’t get to hug so many good people goodbye on my last day. I’ll even miss eating in the dining hall— despite how crappy the food is at my school. I’m going to try to make the best of it, but my heart feels broken to be going back because I’m not really going back. I’m afraid of not getting a job right away and being stuck at home with my family for far longer than I had planned. I’m going to try to see the bright side of everything, like that I even have a home to go back to with food and a family. There are people who have lost far more than I have. But my feelings and fears are still valid.” - Tirzah, Lasell University Class of 2020

bright white bedroom with desk working space

Maintaining social distancing guidelines

“I feel like I’m unaffected by my school’s decisions because all of my classes will be online next semester. But I’m planning on returning to my college town and living off campus anyway. I do think that since so many courses are online, my school could easily have chosen to make all courses online, but instead they’ve put students living on campus at an increased risk. I also think they’re putting low income students in an unfair position, as they are giving them the incentive to take all online courses and live at home to save money, which may limit the courses they are able to take. I do not have faith in the student body to maintain proper social distancing guidelines, so I personally plan on avoiding campus as much as possible and just seeing a close group of my friends. I think I’m fortunate that I am able to do this, but students who live on campus or have to take a certain class in person don’t necessarily get to decide who they come into contact with. Overall, I understand why my school made the decision it did, but I am skeptical of it.” - Katherine, Emory University Class of 2021

“I feel anxious, especially because cases are increasing. Students are expected to self-regulate their social activities, and I have a feeling people will be quick to violate social distancing recommendations, making a lot of people susceptible to infection.” - Shreya, Emory University Class of 2021

“I’m personally very excited to go back to school because the part of [my school] I love the most is all the friends I’ve made and haven’t seen in a long time now. However, I also understand that the problems with testing and social distancing in the country means the pandemic is far from controlled. While I’m lucky to be from a very low-risk age bracket, that’s not true for the older and immunocompromised people at Emory. I realize that my presence, along with hundreds of other students, on campus is possibly endangering others. I hope my school is taking serious consideration regarding the risks of in-person school. As much as I love being at campus, it would be selfish to prioritize my happiness over others’ lives.” - Cameron, Emory University Class of 2021​

Navigating online classes

“I’m excited that we have finally been told we can go back to campus this fall. I know I was worried for a while then there was a chance that things might be entirely online for the semester, because I knew that wouldn’t work well with my learning habits. Additionally, being home and away from friends for so long would be difficult because I enjoy being a part of my school’s community. I am most excited to be back with my soccer team, even though we don’t know that we’re going to have a season yet. Right now, the mindset is to plan for a season and hope it can happen. I am worried that cases will spike when we go back to campus despite all of our safety protocols and precautions. I am also worried that there is a big chance our social environment will be very isolated for most of the year and I don't think it can possibly be a healthy situation for so many college students.” - Emma, Emory University Class of 2022

“I am both excited and nervous to be going back to school in the fall. Most of my classes are happening in person, while a few others are taking place online. In my experience with online classes, it was very easy to fall behind and lose interest in the class. As this will be my senior year, I am hoping that it all runs smoothly, and I’ll still have a good experience even with everything going on. As a performance student, I am most concerned about the performance aspect and the possibility that we won’t be able to perform for an audience or put on the show as scheduled. My major is a collaborative art and needs to happen in a physical space. Just as the theater word has shut down, I fear the same will happen with my department.” - Cathy, Salem State University Class of 2021

The impact on income and international students

“It has been really interesting seeing the different types of plans universities have been implementing — particularly in terms of dorm situations considering it will be the more complicated part of returning to campus. As a senior, I like the plans of schools like Princeton and Yale that are working on a system of allowing freshmen on campus in the fall when they need to start meeting new people and allowing seniors on campus in the spring when they will want to experience their last semester of school. However, I think the universities are forgetting students who rely on the on-campus work options or already confirmed part-time work in their college towns. By banning students from being on campus, many are losing their source of income during the year. Along with this, international students are facing more and more uncertainty when it comes to new regulations and last-minute schedule changes. I am happy I live off-campus, so I did not need to worry about dorm changes and food. But I still worry the anxiety that comes with this changing environment and the impact on campus will be felt by every student no matter their situation.” - Emily, Emory University Class of 2021