College Experience in COVID post vaccine: Red State, Blue State, Blue College in Red State, etc

I don’t know if this has been discussed already.

I’ve been thinking recently about new criteria for college selection: student experience in light of COVID now that there is a vaccine. Namely, college’s policies are and what the state/region transmission stats look like.

In the before times, you picked a college and assumed you would hang out with students in person indoors, eat in cafeteria, talk to your professors in person.

During COVID, many students’ experieces were the same: leaving campus in March 2020 with remote education. When you returned in the Fall of 2020 you could look forward to mostly remote education, masks indoors and outdoors, grab and go lunches to eat outdoors or in your dorm. Everyone was going though the same thing.

Now there’s a vaccine. But there’s vaccine hesitancy, and vaccine refusal. Red States and Blue States. Our colleges are having different policies and the regions they are in are having different transmission rates.

How important is this in considering a new college? My assumption was that with the vaccine, everything would be going back to normal. I didn’t factor in vaccine hesitancy, red states, blue states, blue schools in red states, local ordinances, college vaccine policy, etc.

Simply put if the county you’re in has low vaccination rates and high transmission rates, the CDC will recommend wearing masks indoors, and most colleges will follow CDC recommendations even if the state doesn’t have a mask mandate. This means, in effect, you can have a school that requires all students and staff to get vaccinated, but still require masks for all indoor activires, perhaps even limiting dining options. What was once a dream school is now a restricted and super-controlled environment. Shouldn’t we factor that in to college selection?

Here are some thoughts, perhaps, regarding, selecting a school.

  1. Do they require students and all staff to be vaccinated? Some schools don’t have any requirements, some require only students to get vaccinated.

  2. Will the school follow CDC recommendations even if all it’s staff and students are vaccinated?

  3. Is the school in a county/state with high transmission/low vaccination?

  4. Is a school in the middle of nowhere with a high vaccination rate/low transmisison rate going to be a better college experience than a school close to a metro area that has a low vaccination rate/high transmission rate where the on-campus experience will be quire restricted?

My daughter is enrolling at a college in the midwest as a Freshman. Great school, very progressive. They require all the students to be vaccinated. They don’t require the staff to be vaccinated. The state has no mask mandate. However, less than 50% of it’s population is fully vaccinated. The county the school is in, however, is approaching “substantial” community transmission levels and the CDC recommends that you wear masks indoors even if you’re fully vaccinated. So now the school has sent a communication to all parents that masks are now required indoors in all shared spaces even if you’re fully vaccinated. Classrooms, gyms, theater, student center, dorm lounges. Dining hall policies are unclear. You probably can’t meet with your advisor or professor in their office without a mask on even if you’re both fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated students cannot meet indoors outside their dorm rooms without masks on. How that’s for a college experience? It made sense in the Fall of 2020, but not in the Fall of 2021.

What may have been a second or third choice school may actually be better than you first choice school in light of COVID, school policy and local transmission rates.

This, I imagine, should make schools in New England even more appealing.


A very lively discussion already exists. Feel free to join the conversation there.

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