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Lara Rosales

March 10, 2021

What has this semester been like for you? Do you think it met your expectations? Were you left wanting more?

As the Spring semester came to an end, students were left wondering what would come next. How would classes be during the Fall semester? What should they expect? Would everything continue functioning in a pandemic world or would things slowly start going back to “normal"? No one really knew. Neither teachers nor students had an answer to the questions that haunted them most every day.

Throughout the Summer break—in which many students who were going to take classes opted not to—academic institutions did the best they could to answer the questions and clear the uncertainty. They did not know exactly what was going to happen when the Fall semester started. The reality was that no one knew how the situation would develop in the next few months as COVID-19 continued to expand without a cure or vaccine. Nevertheless, colleges tried to appease any worries and solve as many issues as they could.

Back in July, Inside Higher Red’s author Matt Wilkerson wrote an article regarding “4 Top Asks Students Have for Colleges." His research was based on finding other ways besides lowering tuition costs in which these institutions could help students feel better about going back to class, to an academic setting, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. This was done through the Summer, so students answered his questions with their expectations in mind.

Wilkerson found four very relevant “demands" these students—both at undergraduate and graduate level—had in order to feel safe during the Fall Semester. Which were these?

  1. Evidence of investment in initiatives that support career building during the pandemic: “Students are quickly realizing that online and blended learning will feature more prominently in their college experience than they had initially bargained for. This means they will re-evaluate whether college is still their best shot at the career they want."
  2. A real answer to the question “What will college look like in the fall?": “While regular communication and transparency from universities is high on most wish lists, students are very clear that they are not impressed by hollow updates from the university communications office."
  3. Reassurance that colleges will adapt without compromising traditional benefits: “Whatever plans colleges are making for the year ahead, every student wants to know how the new normal will play out for them. This means as much specificity as possible."
  4. Clarity about networking opportunities with peers, alumni and employers: “Colleges must actively promote remote icebreaker events or brown-bag lunch hours over Zoom or Google Meet and announce active partnerships with industry. Students want to be assured that they aren’t losing out on networking opportunities."

As relevant and important as these four "asks" were back in July, time went by and students realized there were other things to keep in mind. Everyone had their own expectations, priorities, and needs they wanted their college to meet, answer to, and resolve. They all started the Fall semester expecting different results and demanding different things. But at the end of the day, everyone wanted to feel safe and heard. This was a time to build community and understand one another, as none of us knew exactly what was coming or what would happen.

Now the Fall semester is a little over a month away from ending. Students and teachers have made their way through another unprecedented semester in which they had to go back to their “usual" classes remembering what was going on around them. They each put their part to make it a good one. They each held their expectations close to their hearts.

What about you? What were your expectations? Have you been able to meet them? Do you feel like Wilkerson’s research was correct? Do you think your needs were taken into consideration this semester?