Practical Tips for Preparing College Kids in a Pandemic

Ken Knickerbocker

By Wendi Rank

Once, during college, I spent spring break in Cancun, Mexico.

That’s the extent of the story I’m willing to put in print.

With a child four years out from her own spring break, I often reflect on that trip. The advice I’d offer. The warnings I’d give.

But over the last few months, I’ve wondered what college will even look like for her, despite being four years away.

I’ve also wondered at the ethics of telling her Stonehenge is a prime spring break destination.

How can we confidently offer college kids guidance in a pandemic? Below, I’ve gathered some information for parents in need of advice.

I can’t help you if you’re looking for advice on spring break. I’m barely keeping my own head above water on that one. Like that day in Cancun I had too many pina coladas then dove into the Gulf of Mexico.

That’s really all I’ll say about that trip.

On Campus

USA Today’s Amanda Tarlton suggests equipping your student to follow CDC recommendations. Send them to school with masks, bleach wipes, and hand sanitizer.

Emphasize the importance of social distancing and avoiding groups, especially indoors. They should have a thermometer and analgesics in the event they become sick.

Students attending college in person should avoid eating in cafeterias or from self-serve counters. Encourage your student to use carry-out options.


Regis College, an online school, offers recommendations to maximize your student’s virtual learning. Schools use different online platforms, so your student should be fluent with their school’s system. Map out assignments and test dates.

Students should cluster their work and reach out to instructors regularly. Participate often when opportunities are provided.

On Their Way

Even more overwhelming may be those high schoolers applying for college over the next few months. James Vaznis of the Boston Globe reported on recommendations from college deans of admission.

The deans say they’re more concerned with what transcripts looked like before the pandemic than since. Likewise with extracurricular activities; many were curtailed in the spring, rendering them useless for college applications.

Instead, have your student focus on what’s been important during the pandemic, or stumbling blocks they’ve overcome. Involvement in community service, especially now, is a glowing beacon on pandemic college applications.

If your student has been helping family in the pandemic – shopping for elderly grandparents, taking over household chores for parents stretched thin – it matters. Admission deans want to see how your student stepped up in the pandemic.

One Last Thing…

For college students to be successful, they need to be prepared for change. Professors may take sick leave. School policies may be altered. The more amenable your student is to change, the more successful their experience.

As for me, I’d be amenable to changing that spring break in Cancun.

Find Amanda Tarlton’s article here, James Vaznis’ article here, and Regis College’s tips here. My back to school pandemic shopping list can be found here.



Wendi Rank is a Willow Grove native with a graduate degree from LaSalle University. She has worked as a school nurse, a registered nurse and nurse practitioner in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She has previously written for the journal Nursing.


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