This fall, college is going to look much different because of COVID-19. For parents and students, the pandemic presents a lot of challenges, especially for students going to campus for the first time.
Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, and her daughter Carly—who is about to start her freshman year at college—joined WCCO to give advice to families who may be navigating this unique time.
How should families prepare for college during COVID-19?
First, start your college preparation out with a visit to your child’s clinician for a physical, any needed vaccines and medications with refills.
Next, it’s hard not to be anxious or worried about your kid’s health if they go off to college this fall. One recommendation is to have regular check-ins with your child. Whether it’s a simple text or a phone call, talk to them about COVID-19: How are they going to monitor themselves and their health? Do they have any known exposures? Are they noticing any symptoms?
You will need to start a discussion with your roommate and new friends about common expectations and risks for COVID-19. Your interactions and behaviors will directly impact your roommate’s exposure and health; and their behaviors will directly impact your own exposure and health. Having this serious discussion when you are just meeting someone will be challenging but important for all of you to have a safe college experience.
How can my child get ready for college, even with the pandemic?
It’s important for your child to get connected with their school and classmates, even if it’s online. Kids need to acknowledge this moment may not be how they envisioned it and still embrace it.
This is also their opportunity for self-reflection and growth. They should take the time to recognize what they loved about themselves in high school and want to carry forward, but also to reflect on what they may want to change about themselves, and what new experiences, activities, or friendships they would like to develop.
Developing new social connections during COVID-19 may be more challenging than a typical transition to college. Though all kids are in the same situation of needing to make a new social circle and support network, all kids won’t respond to the challenge in the same way. Kids will have to be very intentional about connecting and making new friendships in their own way.
How should kids get ready to learn again – distanced or not?
For many kids this past spring, distance-learning was hard. They were in the middle of their quarter or semester, the game plan changed and the familiar classroom and friendships were taken away from them. They felt a sense of loss and had to create their own structure without any previous experience in doing so.
Set a schedule for success
But starting anew, kids and schools can apply what they have learned for distance-learning. For students, it is important to set a schedule for success. Get up early enough to engage in your online classes. Get ready for the day, out of pajamas, out of bed and to a desk to create a learning environment. Don’t forget to get up and move around in between online classes, just like when you would have formerly walked from one class to the next one.
Create academic connections
In addition, kids will need to make extra efforts to create academic connections. Form study groups with social-distancing, and reach out to professors or learning centers for additional connections and help. They will need to advocate for themselves and personalize their education.
In-person learning tips
For learning in-person, it will still be important for kids to get to classes early enough so that crowding doesn’t occur just before classes start and for them to be cognizant of crowding when exiting, too. Kids should be socially distanced in the classroom, keep hand sanitizer close and use it often and wear masks. If they are not feeling well or are sick, they should not go to in-person classes.
How do I prepare for my child to go to college?
For parents, it can definitely be a mix of emotions. When a child is leaving home for the first time, you are very happy for them to start a new school and life chapter, but you’ll miss them. Be proud of what you have accomplished to get to this point but recognize that you may also be grieving.
With COVID-19, it’s especially tough for parents. Of course, you will want to visit them periodically. But, know that it could create risk for COVID-19 exposures for you, your child and their roommate. Students will have a new COVID-19 safety “cell” of people with their roommates, classmates and friends. Adding your family to these “cells” could increase spread of COVID-19 inadvertently.