What Your Student Needs to Know about COVID in College

COVID Vaccine Questions for College Campuses

By: Reyna Gobel

From vaccine requirements to how schools handle refunds, we are in a different era in the college experience for students. While The Chronicle’s interactive map shows over 1,000 schools have either mandated employee and / or student vaccines, the exact requirements and exemptions vary quite a bit.

Students may decide to transfer to another school because they are uncomfortable with the number of waivers given for unvaccinated students and refund policies for dorms if school temporarily closes. 

Here’s what you questions you need to find answers to:

Who is required to get vaccinated?

There’s a big difference in whether a school requires students to get vaccinated or just faculty. After all, your student likely spends more time with other students than faculty. If searching for a college, check “The Chronicle”’ map. However, for a school your student is already attending, contact the health center about overall mandates at the institution, as policies may change. 

Is your student immunocompromised? 

Most of us debate whether going anywhere in life is healthy and safe with new variants of COVID existing. Fully safe isn’t a possibility, so we do risk evaluation. Students should do a doctor’s visit to run tests and discuss their risks in how COVID could affect them. Their doctor can advise what precautions your student should take based on their personal health. 

What exceptions campuses will make?

Is your campus making exceptions without reason for students to not get vaccinated? If so, your student may want decide to social distance beyond their bubble, limit hugging, and wash their hands more frequently. And if completely uncomfortable, they may want to transfer schools or take virtual classes. If transferring, students can talk to admissions about the possibility of coming back if conditions improve in the future.

Will the school and department allow changing courses to a virtual option?

Especially with basic courses early in college education, there may be virtual sections of the same course. If so, the student should ask to transfer to one of those if they don’t feel safe in a live class.

Will the school allow first-year students to live off campus?

Apartments can be a big improvement for students who are extra cautious when it comes to COVID restrictions. Living in a small studio apartment gives them complete control of their own environment and they can avoid wearing masks at home.

How did and do they carry out COVID refund policies?

Getting a tuition refund is near impossible due to COVID, other than by traditional deadline dates or via tuition insurance. However, it is very common to offer dorm and room and board refunds if they school has shut down temporarily. Check with the college about how dorm refunds were processed in the past.

What are the mask policies and is your student comfortable with how they are enforced?

Every school makes their own rules for carrying out mask and other policies related to student safety. Before choosing a college, students can ask about desk spacing, masks, etc. The student health center is the best place to ask. During college, students can also check with each professor about their policies for COVID protection. 


Health and public safety is as important in choosing a college as academics. Whether your student is looking for a college or trying to navigate what to do with their current one. Get all the information you need. While COVID is hopefully temporary, how schools handle refunds, etc. with COVID is an indication of how they’ll care for your student overall.