How College is Different During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the way that college life looks. While it will only be temporary, it is definitely an adjustment. As someone who has been on her college campus living in her on-campus apartment before classes start for a week now, I can definitely say that college campuses look quite a bit different during a pandemic. Today, I will be sharing how college campuses differ while in the coronavirus pandemic.

Visitor Restrictions

Attending a small college with only two entrances for cars means that pandemic or not there are only a few ways to enter the campus. Upon entering campus, everyone is stopped by Campus Security, and the back gate entrance is locked. Whereas, in the dorms and on-campus apartments, the only off-campus guests that are allowed are move-in helpers. Moreover, the number of guests per dorm room/apartment is also greatly capped. Upon coming to campus, my classmates and I that are living on campus had to sign a contract that said that we would abide by the guest restrictions. By limiting the amount of visitors on campus, my school can better contain and limit the spread of Covid-19.

Mask Requirements

Whoever thought that in the year 2020 that masks would be the new black was seriously one in a million! I surely never anticipated that I would be wearing a mask practically everywhere I go these days, but it definitely IS the look of the year!!! Similar to going to the grocery store or my version of paradise aka Home Goods, wearing a mask is required on a college campus. At my school, there are signs literally EVERYWHERE telling students and faculty to wear a mask upon entering buildings and in areas where they cannot social distance. Research has shown that wearing a mask helps to contain the spread of Covid-19. Luckily, wearing a mask can be fashionable, too! Brands such as Lilly Pulitzer, Vera Bradley, Target, Kendra Scott, and several Etsy shops each have such adorable masks that one can wear to spice up their back to school wardrobe on and off a college campus. While we have to wear a mask, why not make it fashionable, even on a college campus?!

Social Distancing Protocols

The fact that a car can only run as long as it has a gas pedal and a steering wheel is similar to the fact that containing the spread of Covid-19 entails maintaining a distance of 6 feet apart while wearing a mask. Likewise, on a college campus, it is required that all student take precautions in following social distancing protocols. Most colleges have markers in order to ensure that students remain six feet apart from one another. My college, like many others, want to make sure that their on-campus residents follow social distancing protocols both on and off campus. My college has required that all students limit their off-campus travel, especially outside of my college town of Raleigh, North Carolina. If a student leaves the college town, then they must register with a specific site and list the things that they have done while there, in order to determine whether or not they need to self-isolate when they get back. That way, we all may be safe while on campus.

Contact Tracing

While the car may need a steering wheel and gas pedal to start, it also needs gas in order to start. The same goes for contact tracing on a college campus along with wearing a mask and keeping social distance, in order for a college to run smoothly during a pandemic. My college like many others is requiring all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to download the Campus Clear app. On the Campus Clear app, everyone who comes to campus essentially is screened for Covid-19 symptoms daily. Using Campus Clear requires its users to say whether or not they have coronavirus symptoms or has come into contact with someone who has Covid-19 and notes whether or not they are good to go. If a student is experiencing coronavirus symptoms, then they will receive instructions in the app on how to proceed. At the same time, if someone has tested positive for Covid-19, then those who may have interacted with them will be notified to self-isolate and asked to get a test as well. My school also has a building designated for students who have to self-isolate. Knowing that my school and many others are taking contact tracing seriously is extremely vital in keeping everything on a college campus up and running.

Classroom Layout

In order to promote social distancing, all classrooms have been laid out in a way that also promotes social distancing. While on campus, I have visited an academic building where everything has been drastically changed, in order to promote social distancing. For example, common areas are closed and tables that once had four chairs at them may only have one or two. As for in the classroom, desks and chairs are also laid out much differently in order to allow for students to maintain their social distance. At my school, desks and chairs have been rearranged in order to promote this. I found the social distancing classroom setting at my school to be rather friendly, while I know that some other schools’ classroom settings may not be the same. Whereas, my friends at larger universities were telling me that they have seen every other seat be blocked off or wrapped in bubble wrap. However schools choose to layout their classes to ensure that students keep their social distance, it must be done in order to keep others safe.


Since containing the spread of the coronavirus involves A LOT of social distancing, many college-related events have transformed to a virtual format. Classes, socials, club fairs, block parties, meetings, career fairs, and even sorority recruitment have all likely switched to meeting on Zoom or Google Hangouts. I have had training sessions, meetings for clubs/organizations as well as my thesis, and classes through a virtual format. Since large gatherings are not recommended at the moment, it is best not to have them. Most colleges are also strictly following the CDC’s, their state’s, and their local area’s guidelines as they pertain to keeping us safe. For right now, that means that most college events will be held virtually.

Outdoor Events Over Indoor Events

If an event can be done safely while social distancing, then it will 9 times out of 10 be done outdoors. In past years, many events that I have attended on my college campus have been either held virtually or outdoors if in-person. If a college chooses to have an in-person event outdoors, then it will most likely require all of their students to wear a face mask and maintain social distance at ALL TIMES. For instance, I attended an event on-campus earlier this week that was held outdoors where all of us were required to both wear a mask and stand 6 feet apart. At that event, each of us were split up into smaller groups to meet up with others. We also received goodie bags which were distributed to us 6 feet away from someone else’s goodie bag. Although this event looked a whole lot different than events in the past, it still felt SOOO good to see others in-person that I hadn’t have seen in a LONGGG time. Definitely take advantage of outdoors in-person events if you can, just wear your mask!

Online Campus

With the coronavirus still impacting practically every aspect of our lives, it unfortunately means that many students will not be able to be on campus in-person. Students will be attending classes and apart of campus from EVERYWHERE. With that all being said, it is important to know that virtual platforms such as Zoom, Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, email, and forms of messaging will be a vital part of the college campus scene. These virtual platforms will allow us college students to come together in ways like never before. The sense of community that us college students have felt on our campuses will transform to the digital world – I have seen it happen on my own campus and will continue to throughout the year. Knowing that the digital world is thriving on my campus, I rightfully assume that it is on many other college campuses as well.

Varying Social Distancing Definitions

With college students coming together after being apart from one another for about 5 months, there is most definitely differences in how they view the importance of social distancing. While me and most of my friends take social distancing very seriously, there are also many college students who do not. There will be parties and classmates of yours that will not wear a mask or practice social distancing when off campus. There will also probably be times that all of us college students do not feel comfortable when asked to partake in an activity. Even though our definitions of social distancing may be different, it is most important to remember to do YOUR PART in maintaining your social distance. Most importantly, you MUST do whatever makes YOU feel the MOST comfortable during these trying times. DO NOT do anything that you do not want to do or feel comfortable doing. Trust me, it will pay off in the long run!

Social Distanced Hangouts

With social distancing measures still in place pretty much everywhere, that means that many of us college students have to get creative with our hangouts and gatherings. College campuses have to regulate social distancing measures. That being said, picnics, walks, and outdoor activities will become the latest and greatest way for college students to hangout on campus. A friend of mine who attends a much larger university than mine also said that some of the restaurants at her school have been closed, in order to maintain social distance. Knowing that many colleges are taking social distancing very seriously, us college students will have to get real creative with our hangouts. If you need any ideas, please feel free to check out my post 11 Social Distancing-Approved Gatherings for inspiration!

Staggered Move-In’s

To promote social distancing and safety on college campuses, many of them are opting to stagger college move-in’s. At my school, we usually have one big day for Freshmen move-in. On the contrary, this year, that move-in has been spread out to three different days. As previously mentioned, each student is allowed only two moving helpers who all are required to wear masks when moving in. The same goes for my on-campus apartment. That way, everyone can strive to stay safe!

Zoom Fatigue

Now the struggles of college life during a pandemic: getting SICK OF ZOOM!!! I don’t know about you, but I get real tired of sitting at my desk ALLL day long on Zoom calls (I wish I was feeling 22 LOL!!!). Like myself, many college students get real tired of staring at a screen on Zoom all day everyday. It is definitely a STRUGGLE and y’all THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!!! Though some days feel much longer and more like a hassle than others, it is important to remember that you are not alone and that many others feel the same exact way.

Greater Emphasis on Social Media

With many colleges having a major online campus presence, many colleges will be placing a greater emphasis on their social media. I am extremely involved in a few on-campus organizations. Many of them have emphasized that social media will be a key way in reaching students on campus in ways that they have not like ever before. As online events take precedence over in-person one’s, the usage of social media will not only help promote those events, but also keep students engaged and have a sense of belonging on their campus even though it may look a bit different at the moment.

College life most definitely looks different right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even though college life has witnessed its several changes since March 2020, it does not mean that the authenticity of the college experience is completely taken away from us college students. It just means that us college students have to find new ways to socialize and engage with one another while remaining safe. During this time, each of us has a special story and experience to share, whether or not we are a college student or even living on campus as a college student, and we will remember these trying times and look back on them many years later. I hope to look on these times with a bittersweet smile on my face and I hope y’all will be able to too.

XOXO – Katie <3

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