A message to our students: If you are thinking about sitting out the fall semester, please reconsider

The clock is ticking and maybe you are too late? But still there may be some time to make a better informed decision.

Like most undergraduate and graduate students, and some of their parents who are footing the bill, you have weighed the pros and cons of going back to classes this fall. You are trying to answer a bunch of questions connected to the quality of instruction and campus life: Should I go back full time? Can I go back part-time instead? Do I have enough money to pay for classes? Am I putting myself at risk of contracting COVID-19 if I return to campus? Will I put the health of my family and friends in danger? Are on-line classes worth the money? Will classes, if in person, remain in person for the entire semester? How many of my classmates/teachers will die from the virus? Should I sit the semester out?

Now that COVID-19 is enveloping the United States with alarming speed, universities are preparing, some better than others, to put into place safeguards for either face-to-face instruction or methods to enhance on-line instruction, that can will enable education in various formats, while at the same time ensuring the health of students, faculty, administrators, and other essential staff.

Some students argue that they want a “real” university experience, the one they had last year, or the one their parents or friends attending other universities had. This “real” experience might include an active Greek life, students socializing in circles on grass lawns, attending classes in person, and having fun outside of classrooms. This scenario, is no longer is possible. So what can we do?

What I do know is that unless you are familiar with on-line instruction and learning, from now on university instruction will not be the same.

Perhaps you don’t function well online. This may be because you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t learn unless the instruction is face-to-face, you prefer face-to-face instruction more, or the result of a learning disability. Again, I understand and empathize with you. But things have changed.

The presence of COVID-19 is the new normal, for now and you should get used to it. Maybe your experience last semester was less than ideal. Your instructor was not great on-line. But he or she is hopefully going to get better. It takes time for both instructors and students to shift over from face-to-face to online teaching and learning.

Maybe you are thinking that you will go back to campus in the spring semester, because, after all, a vaccine will have been developed by then. In a perfect world this might happen, but in reality we do not know when the vaccine will be invented, when you’ll finally end up receiving it, and how much adoption among the wider community there will be. In other words, it’s going to be a long time before typical face-to-face university classes resume to normal if there ever was such a thing.

Here is another downside to taking a semester or two off. You will be half a semester, or one year behind. Thus your lifetime earning power will have decreased. And you are taking a gap semester or year off to do what? Play videogames from the comfort of your bed?

Alternatively, maybe because of job loss or economic insecurity, you will have a tough time paying for next year‘s bills, and consider post-secondary education a luxury item. But you are forgetting that education, especially a college or university education from an accredited (e.g., Middle States) educational institution is one of the best assets that you can purchase that’s worth getting into debt for.

The take away is that there are lots of situations that are not ideal. If you want to succeed in life it’s important that you learn this lesson now. Good employees, freelancers, and entrepreneurs need to be flexible to adapt to new situations including challenges and crises. If the only way you can learn is through face-to- face instruction you are missing out on lots of opportunities to learn and to grow. Your ability to tough it out during these uncertain times should also bode well when your application comes in front of employers as it demonstrates that even though conditions were not ideal, you toughed it out. Employers like this sort of thing.