The Start of the Fall Semester for Colleges is a Big Question Mark


Maroon Staff

No one is sure what the fall will bring with the pandemic continuing.

Hyunjin Lee

The future has always been uncertain, but it is now more so than ever in this pandemic-ridden world. This is especially true for students facing monumental changes in the fall, such as seniors in high school going off to college. With no clear end in sight for the virus, universities have started considering the possibility of delaying the start of the fall semester to January 2021. Boston University was one of the first colleges to announce on its news site, BU Today, that the return to in-person classes may be delayed until January 2021.

Other colleges are struggling to make plans for the upcoming semester as well since so little is known about the virus and what the situation will be like in the fall. “The president of my college sent us an email, saying they would ‘only consider delaying the start of the fall semester in the most extraordinary circumstances,’” said Spencer Sheppe ’20. This seems to be what most colleges are saying, with plans for distance learning if it is still necessary for the fall.

However, most seniors do not want more online classes, especially as a start to their first year in college. “We already have the end of our senior year gone and are trying to get excited at least for the start of college, but now that that might not even happen it’s definitely sad,” remarked Izzy Lelis ’20. “I don’t think I’d like it at all. It’d sort of feel like high school never ended, especially if we don’t have prom and graduation and college continues like high school is now,” explained Sheppe ’20.

The fact that some families and most colleges are struggling financially does not help matters. Shops are closing, and students don’t have anywhere to work to earn money for tuition. Colleges have closed dorms and refunded students for the housing costs, and some students have been demanding a refund of the tuition. Summer camps and programs that generate revenue have also been canceled. Colleges have been scrambling to make up for these losses. Boston University is anticipating a $52 million budget shortfall in the spring semester, and some of the steps they have been taking include a staff hiring freeze and salary cuts for senior leaders. Colleges also do not know how many freshmen will show up in September and if returning students will register for classes instead of taking a leave of absence or dropping out. “I know that a good number of kids in my grade are looking into the possibility of a gap year if the first semester is going to be online, but it’s very case-to-case,” said Rishabh Gharekhan ’20.

Students that have not yet decided on a college are especially affected. The deadline for decisions is usually May 1, and high school seniors who have not already committed to a college are feeling pressured to make a decision with less time and no chances to visit the campus. “All these schools have been giving virtual student visits and things like that but it’s not the same as being on campus,” stated Gharekhan ’20. Many students were planning on visiting colleges before the pandemic, but now that everything is closed they must make a decision without having that opportunity.

Even students that have already made a decision are having plans canceled. “They were supposed to do an open house at my college for all the admitted students, and it was supposed to be an overnight thing. So instead they did a virtual one where there was Q&A, and you would do zooms with other admitted students, but I feel it’s just awkward meeting people over zoom. I would prefer to meet them in person,” said Lelis ’20.

Of course, everyone wishes and prays for a return to normal life as soon as possible. Who would have thought people might actually want to go back to school? “There are people in my classes who I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to talk to in school because they’re with me every day, so it’s sad that those opportunities to spend time with kids who you might not talk to after high school are gone. It’s really disappointing, but everyone’s trying to remain optimistic and positive,” said Gharekhan ’20. The unexpected absence of our normal lives truly helps us realize how important and valuable it is.