At the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, students faced many challenges and obstacles as universities closed campuses and abruptly switched to online learning. As the fall semester approaches, those same challenges and obstacles remain, drastically changing how students obtain their education.

Some students will have to take classes completely online, others will be in small, socially – distanced classes, wearing masks with plexiglass between them and their instructors; others may have hybrid courses – a combination of in-class and online learning.

As a former instructor at a four-year higher education institution, I saw first-hand some of these challenges that students faced in an abrupt move to completely online learning because of COVID-19. These challenges hindered students from effectively engaging and participating in their courses, which in turn probably impacted their overall academic progress.

Student Success is First Priority

Communicating to first-time freshmen, as well as returning students, what resources, services, technologies, and safety protocols have been put into place is an important step toward getting these students to or back to campus.

Through survey results from my institution’s research, students conveyed that with a sudden move off-campus and transition to online learning, they struggled with mental health, lack of the proper technology (whether that be Wi-Fi or equipment) and keeping up and connecting with online courses and instructors.

Let Students Know How They Can Thrive

Institutions must be active in letting students know what the benefits of returning to campus are and how they can thrive despite the current environment.

Some examples are marketing any and all resources that are available to the students, services that are in place to help them get back on track and figure out internship or placement requirements, or mental health services to ensure the health and wellbeing of the students.

In outlining these benefits, an institution can relay to students that they are valued, their feedback was heard, and solutions were implemented for their benefit.

Students Are Still Looking at Other Possibilities

 However, students are still considering deferring their admissions and taking gap years.

Why?

Ibrahim Firat, an independent college consultant, stated in an Inside Higher Ed article,

“What I have heard from these seniors is, ‘I’ve been sold on the college experience before I chose to attend this particular college. If I’m not going to have that experience for the first semester or even probably the whole year, then what’s the point of paying full tuition to sit at home and watch videos all day?’”

However, the benefits of a gap year are in jeopardy.

In a pre-COVID 19 time, students would be able to travel abroad, volunteer, conduct research or work to save up money for college. This is now more complicated because of the virus.

If students choose to take a gap year, they will not gain the same benefits or experiences they would have before the pandemic.

Robert Franek, editor in chief of The Princeton Review and author of “The Best 385 Colleges” says in a CNBC article, “A gap year is not a quick fix — it truly has its benefits for students and schools.” He continued, saying, “All of the face-to-face exchanges could be off the table — that’s really the value of a gap year.”

The Road to Alleviating Student Apprehension

To help alleviate students’ apprehension about being on campus, schools should communicate the benefits of campus life with transparency, authenticity, and compassion.

As more student voices are heard and more data is collected, we can better tailor our messaging to their needs. Institutions must find the best way to communicate with their students in an authentic and compassionate manner during, not only during this crisis but in future possible situations.

Students are at a critical, uncertain junction of their academic careers. They are looking to their institutions for insight, resources, and services to help them succeed in the educational journey through a global pandemic.

Through these uncertain times, messaging is important. Enveritas Group (EVG) can help you communicate these messages to your students. Experienced content and marketing teams at EVG are ready to help you provide all the information they need to relieve any apprehension they may have.

Let’s help them. Let’s help them succeed. Let’s help them thrive.

– Heather Hamilton, Content Creator

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