Tuesday, May 5, 2020

8 Tips for College and University Students Planning for the Fall 2020 Semester

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I know that there is a great deal of angst out there among students as to what the fall 2020 semester will bring. Some universities are planning to open for on-campus courses. Some are planning to offer online courses only. And most others are somewhere in-between. Since many of my readers are college students and their parents, I thought I would provide 8 tips for how to plan for the upcoming fall semester.

1. Don't let this crazy time slow down your eduction. I know that some out there reading this are tempted to just give up on the fall semester given the various unknowns. However, across the country, university administrators, faculty, and staff are working hard to put together a very solid experience for Fall 2020 students. Whether your courses are going to be online or in-person is still a bit uncertain at this point. However, what I can guarantee is that students will be able to get the courses they need to advance their degrees. Uncertainty can be a bit anxiety inducing. Jut focus on the fact that you will be able to get the courses you need regardless of the delivery method. Keep your eye on the ultimate goal--your degree.

2. Evaluate your technology needs. It is hard to imagine, but there is actually a laptop shortage right now in the marketplace and there is quite a long waiting list for many electronic products. Thus, now is a good time to consider what you might need for the start of the fall semester and make the appropriate purchases. If costs are an issue for you, contact your university now to find out what types of laptop assistance they can provide. Many universities are offering laptop loans or other types of support for students who need some help.

3. If you plan to live on campus, follow campus rules when returning in the fall. Campus professionals have been working on guidelines to make campuses safe for students, faculty, and staff. Residence hall managers, for example, are working on plans to house students so that they can maintain safe distances from other residents. It is important to follow the rules set on campus behavior not only to protect yourself, but to protect others who work on or visit campus. Many university faculty and staff may be in those vulnerable categories we've heard about and students should try to limit their risks in order to keep the broader campus community safe.

4. Take some time to interact with the social media in your department, college, and university. Many universities are creating some amazing social media content right now which is helping to raise school spirit. Plus many departments and faculty members have upped their social media game and are adding value to student experiences as they learn from home. Explore what is out there in your department and university. Join in and add to the conversation and create some content of your own within your area of expertise. Student governments and other student organizations such as department clubs, Greek organizations, and interest groups are all active on social media and provide ways for students to participate without being on campus. I tend to find the best content on Twitter. However, Tik Tok and Instagram also have some great content.

5. Find ways to interact with your Department and your Fall 2020 instructors prior to the start of the semester. Drop instructors a note to introduce yourself with information about your background and your interest in the material. If you and they have time, arrange a short zoom meeting with a key faculty member or two who teach material of particular interest to you. Seek their career advice. If you have time, offer to assist with a research project in some capacity. These are the types of interactions you might have had in the Spring of 2020 if we would not have had COVID-19. Given that most faculty are likely to be place-bound for the summer. they will most likely be more than willing to take a Zoom call and would probably be glad to have some help on something. You could help with some research projects from home doing things like literature reviews, data analysis, and data visualization. You could also help with your Department's social media or outreach. These types of interactions will get you connected to your Department and faculty in meaningful ways.

6. Get to know your career services office. Every university has an office of career services that provides an array of services for students. At the very basic level, they will assist students in finding meaningful careers. However, they also provide an array of other services such as personal development, resume reviews, and interview practices. Take the time now to get to know what these offices offer. They have largely moved online during the lockdown and are glad tp provide online support.

7. Look for new auxiliary activities. It is hard to determine exactly what types of student activities will be available in the Fall semester due to the fact that things are changing rapidly. However, universities offer a range of really interesting online student activities. For example, some universities are offering online yoga and meditation classes. Others are offering (for a modest fee) online music instruction for non-music majors. Still others are offering online multiplayer games. Whatever your interest, I am sure you can find something at your university that will interest you. Take advantage of what your university is offering.

8. Discuss your finances with a student aid specialists and consider all scholarships. There are experts at all universities who provide support for students who need financial assistance. Now is a good time to reach out to review your situation so that you can figure out how to cover your educational costs. In addition, discuss scholarship opportunities with your Department to find out what might be available. Look for other scholarships in your community. Many organizations provide student scholarships. There are lots of people out there willing to help you. You have to take the time to ask for the help.

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