With everything that’s happened in 2020, the way schools operate has completely changed to fit the new way of the world. More online classes, masks on campus, social distancing in the classroom – these are just some of the changes we’ve seen. But one of the biggest developments is the new end to the fall semester. Almost all colleges in the U.S. plan to end classes early this year, with students leaving campus for the Fall 2020 Thanksgiving Break and not returning for classes in December. So, what do these changes mean for students? Why have they been put in place and how do we deal with them? Here is everything you need to know about the early end of 2020’s fall semester.

Why Are Colleges Ending Class Early?

Due to COVID-19, classes will be ending early to reduce travel to and from campus to minimize the risk of the virus being spread by someone who contracted it over the Thanksgiving holiday. While students enter and leave the campus every day, returning home to family for the holiday is an entirely different deal. While on school days students are asked to conduct personal wellness checks and minimize contact with others, Thanksgiving Recess brings about many factors that increase the spread of the virus. Travel, parties and group gatherings, and lack of masks are all risk factors that make spreading the virus more likely.

Winter Break is another factor that led to the closing of campuses. Because the Thanksgiving and Winter breaks are only a few weeks apart, there would be two opportunities for students to bring the virus back to campus. Universities decided that having students return to in-person classes in January would bring about fewer cases and provide enough time for students to quarantine if necessary.

What happens after Thanksgiving Break?

  1. Students will not return to in-person classes after Thanksgiving break. Most on-campus classes and remote learning courses will be ending early and will finish before the break. Some in-person and online classes may continue in an online format after the break, but it depends on the college. Schedules may change as we move through the semester. Consult your school’s academic schedule or your course schedules for information on the school’s ending date.
  1. The finals schedule will change. Schools will be moving up finals to work with the unique circumstances of this year’s fall semester. Courses will administer finals before the Thanksgiving recess, either in-person or remotely, OR will be administering final exams remotely after the break. A few instructors have removed the final exam from the course altogether. Check your university’s finals schedule or contact your instructors to find out when your final exams will be held.
  1. Arrangements will be made for some students to stay on campus throughout the break and after, but for the most part, students will be returning home. Dorms will be vacated by the majority of students until the following semester.
  1. The winter term is expected to proceed as planned. Students who signed up for courses will be able to continue with classes; however, classes will presumably be held remotely. Every school is different, so be sure to visit your college’s website for more information on the 2020 Winter Term.

What will students miss?

If all goes according to plan, students will miss very little. While students will be short a few weeks of school due to the cancellation of December classes, the plan is to limit the amount of work students actually miss.

Most colleges and universities have decided to hold classes on school holidays like Labor Day and Fall Break to make up for the three weeks students will not be able to attend classes. Missing classes on holidays your college has transitioned to will result in penalties. Thanksgiving and Winter breaks will proceed as usual.

Professors also plan to increase the pace of their classes to fit as much in as possible. This means spending less time on some topics, but not necessarily removing part of the curriculum. Students do not need to stress about losing too much class time, as the semester will be able to fit into the new time frame.

How will this affect me?

  1. Classes may move faster. If you find yourself struggling with the increased pace, take advantage of your professor’s office hours to work through concepts you feel you did not have enough time with, or go back and watch the recorded lectures many schools are requiring each class to have. Use the tools at your disposal to ensure your success!
  1. Plan to return home. Few students will be staying on campus after fall break, so make plans to return home and stay there until the second semester. Dorms will be vacated in November rather than December, but students will still be expected to be out by their school’s determined date.
  1. Be prepared for finals. Some classes will not be administering finals, but be ready for those that are. With less in-class time leading up to finals, it’s up to you to be prepared. You should also work out any issues that may inhibit the completion of your finals before you take them.

Navigating college in the first post-quarantine semester is unchartered territory. Everyone is doing their best to make sure this school year runs as smoothly and productively as possible with so many new factors added to the mix. Don’t stress too much over the early end date and do your best to have a successful semester!


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