Colleges begin to announce fall plans, COVID-19 changes

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As the pandemic continues, colleges and universities across the country have started to announce their plans for how to conduct classes in the fall.

Many colleges will begin the semester in August, skip fall break and send students home right before Thanksgiving.

"And finish up the remaining week or two of classes remotely online and then take exams remotely online," said Sara Harberson, former associate dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, and founder of Application Nation, an online college counseling community.

Harberson said part of the logic behind the altered semester is to avoid a possible second wave of the virus.

"They're tracking the pandemic and believe that they can bring kids back to campus safely during that period of time," she said. 

Eliminating fall break will also help keep kids contained on campus.

"Those colleges and universities that are separated from a city or a community are in a better position to do that and to control the spread of the virus," explained Harberson.

As students are going to be in close quarters, following safety guidelines will be critical.

"For most colleges, the reason why they're bringing all these students back and they'e putting all these rules and protocols into place is because they know that they need to survive, as an institution, and get through this pandemic," she said. "They know that the moment that students return home for a break or go away with a bunch of students off campus, they lose control."

Other schools will have both remote and in-person classes. A few others, including UCLA, will be mostly online.

"We've put a lot of pressure on these colleges to tell us exactly the plan," Harberson shared. "But the fact is the place can change at any minute."

And that's why many schools are waiting to announce plans and why the spring 2021 semester is yet to be determined.