As a mom of two college students, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw understands that attending college this fall will look much different than in years past.

“We all have to wrap our minds around the fact that going back to school is not going to be the college experience for our kids that Mom and Dad had—at least for this year and maybe, unfortunately, for a couple of years,” she says.

Taking safety measures
In Oregon, the majority of the state’s colleges and universities will offer predominantly remote and online instruction for fall term, however, residence halls at many institutions will be available to students who want to live on campus.

Dr. Bradshaw advises: “As you consider going back to in-person campus, it’s extremely important that you be ready to take some precautions that are not typical and not going to be easy.”

Become familiar with how your college is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps that are being taken on campus to protect students and faculty. Even if your student is taking all remote classes, it’s important to know how and where to receive updates. You can find a link to COVID-19 response web pages for most public universities and community colleges in Oregon here.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends these tips for college students:

  1. Wear a fabric face covering when in public spaces or when 6 feet of social distance cannot be maintained. Make sure your student has multiple masks, so that they can wear a clean one each day. Help them understand the importance of wearing their mask correctly, covering both the nose and mouth with minimal gaps.

“You need to sit six feet away from your friends and that’s going to be hard, but you just have to get used to that,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “That’s the new normal to avoid spreading respiratory droplets between yourselves.”

  1. Create a small circle of close friends who are also mindful about social distancing.

“We’ve already had some well-known cases of house parties locally that made hundreds of young people sick. Although its less likely that a college-aged kid is going to die from COVID than a 90-year-old, that has happened.”

  1. Remind your student to practice good hand hygiene.
  2. Get tested early is you exhibit symptoms of COVD-19.
  3. Stay isolated when sick. 

If your college student will be living on campus, make sure they familiarize themselves with their school’s health center and what to do if they are feeling ill.

Dr. Bradshaw says, “We don’t want you to sit at home for days and try to soothe your symptoms. We want to know, especially if you are a college kid, ‘Are you positive for COVID?’ And, if so, we have to do contact tracing with the help of your public health department.”

Leverage campus wellness resources
Your student’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. Since the health crisis began, there’s been an alarming rise in new diagnoses of anxiety and depression among college-age young adults and teens.

Help your college-bound students prepare for their freshman year by understanding what resources are available to help them better manage negative emotions and the challenges that come with being a college student. Encourage your student to find ways to keep themselves engaged with others, even though most of their classwork is likely taking place online.

“Check in with your kids more often this year than you would perhaps do in a normal year, because this year isn’t going to feel normal to students.”