Back-to-School During COVID-19 for Colleges

Back-to-School and COVID-19
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“Hope”, “we’re optimistic”, “We intend to reopen”. The same words are being echoed throughout the world of higher education, messages of assurance to students of a return to normalcy, or as close to normal as colleges and universities across the nation can muster. These are not promises per se, since the winds of uncertainty caused by Covid-19 are still holding daily life in America at a standstill, but a commitment to bring back the intricacies that made the experience of higher education so enjoyable for many. Administrators currently plan how colleges will go back-to-school during COVID-19.

Unprecedented Times

It is challenging endeavor where colleges must balance a proper education with safety for their students. This has led to many creative alternatives for the reopening of the fall semester. Universities plan to offer larger lecture style classes as recorded or live streaming formats. Change class schedules to reduce overall density in classrooms.  Some schools look for new housing alternatives/expansions for students so as to further follow the social distancing guidelines in place by public health officials.

Schools such as Northeastern University, will lean towards hybrid approaches with both online and in person classes being offered, but the reception to this type of transition from in person to online classes was less than stellar. Most colleges will be charging full tuition next semester, which many members of the student body feel that online courses do not warrant the cost of full tuition. Just this month, a class action lawsuit was filed by a grad student at Northeastern University. The lawsuit alleged that “the university breached it’s contract with tuition-paying students when it moved its classes online but retained the full cost of tuition” during the early closure of the spring semester.


However at this time most schools intend to go back-to-school during COVID-19. These campuses reassured students that the plan to re-open in some form this fall. The hope with new community guidelines and campus modifications they can some level or normalcy. While the times will be different, it provides a great opportunity to find new and effective ways to market to the students.

Digital marketing will be a great way to reach students as they spend more time online. It is possible to narrow down a specific sub-set of student with online targeting. Additionally email messaging remains effective as students will constantly check their emails to stay abreast of course changes. Students will also be paying more attention to digital student influencers as they don’t want to be left behind the curve.

Even though social distancing guidelines will be in effect to some extent on campuses, Out-of-home advertising will still be effective. Students will still have to travel from location to location and will walk past newsstands and bus shelters. Other exterior ad units will be visible to students on campus as well. Out-of-home remains the best way to reach a broad swath of a college community.

Use broad safety messages and helpful guidance in your messaging. Show how your product can help enhance and aid the lives of students. Do not ignore the problems caused by the pandemic during these times. Instead advertise how you responded to the crisis and the steps you take moving forward.

What Next?

The future of the incoming fall semester is still up in the air. Colleges are scrambling to find a balance between the needs and wishes of their student body, while maintaining their community safe. Regardless, most institutions have made it clear that they intend to go back-to-school during COVID-19. We might just need to change our expectations of what a “new normal” might look like.

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