Moving Out and Moving Online Amid a Pandemic

College students are being highly affected during the coronavirus pandemic. Here's what you should know if you have to move off campus and take online classes.

Christina Calden, a freshman from the state of Washington, had just returned to the University of Arizona on March 12 when students were informed that the University was extending spring break due to COVID-19. Since this was toward the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, many students thought the break would end soon, and they would resume classes as expected.

Then the emails began. “Each day after that initial email telling us of an extended spring break, the circumstances of the COIVD-19 crisis seemed to worsen, and the school’s mitigation plan started to worry my family,” says Calden.

Within a few days of that initial email, the school informed all students to collect their belongings and move out of their dorms. As Calden and other students make their way home and transition to online classes, their definition of college has and will change forever.

Moving out notice

For students being asked to leave campus, many have received less than a week's notice to move out of their dorms, while others were only allowed 24 hours to pack up their belongings and vacate campus housing. Not only does this raise questions about refunds for housing and meal plans, but it’s also created a temporary emergency as families try to figure out how to get their students home, and fast. 

While most students are navigating this situation with their families and are returning home with all their belongings, many others have nowhere else to go. For these students—some who are low income, don’t have family to return to, or have jobs nearby they’re required to keep working—living on campus is their only affordable option. Even if off-campus housing such as apartments is available, finding the money for first and last month’s rent is next to impossible, not to mention the chances of securing housing in a crisis being more difficult than usual.

What to do if you’re stuck

The good news is most colleges have a plan to accommodate extenuating circumstances. The first thing you should do is contact your school’s housing and financial aid offices, followed by the office for student affairs.

Some schools have agreed to evaluate students on a case-by-case basis if they need to stay on campus. Circumstances being considered include students with visa restrictions, students with extreme financial hardship, students who are facing homelessness, and students facing unsafe living conditions. If any of those factors pertain to you, contact student affairs at your school.

Related: COVID-19: How to Cope With Anxiety

Help for students moving out

While colleges and universities across the country are doing what they can to support students during this transition, some businesses are also stepping up to help. Several moving and storage companies have offered to assist students and families by providing reduced or no-cost moving and storage services. Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBuddha, a website where people can find moving companies, says they’ve had a huge increase in the number of students desperately looking for moving and storage services over the past two weeks.  

Here are some companies doing their part to aid students:

  • Doorage in Illinois has shifted all their business to meet the needs of students and families. They’re mobilizing teams in Illinois and southern Wisconsin regions to pick up and store students’ belongings. Currently, they are offering free pickup and 10% off all student orders.
  • Enterprise is reducing the minimum age to rent a car and waiving the young renter fees for rentals through May 31, 2020. College students 18–24 years old can check their website for more information.
  • U-Haul is offering 30 days of free self-storage to new customers with college IDs. This is subject to availability, so go online to see if the store nearest you has space.

Other organizations like HireAHelper—an online marketplace for finding, reviewing, and booking independent moving service providers—are offering tips to students. When it comes to moving out, Mike Glanz, co-founder and CEO, says the three top things for students and families to consider before calling a moving service include:

  1. Before you get started: Do some homework. Know the move-out date and time and vehicle parking policies at your school.
  2. Be prepared: Be sure to have a small tool kit on hand for disassembling furniture. You're going to need it.
  3. Use the "hybrid moving" approach: A “hybrid move” is part DIY and part full-service. Using this approach, you rent your own moving truck and then use HireAHelper to hire local moving help by the hour who’ll do the heavy lifting and loading. It's more affordable than hiring a full-service moving company and easier than traversing dorm stairs with large items by yourself.

Ways to make online learning affordable

Whether you make it home, move off campus, or remain in student housing, the issue of how to do online learning is still something many students have to tackle.

What to do about your internet

Bill Dodd, CEO of GigaMonster, says he’s had questions about internet service and usage now that so many students are moving to online learning. To make this work, he says it’s imperative for college students to have a fast, reliable internet connection for the completion of online coursework and basic research.

“Quick upload and download speeds mean everything in today’s academic learning environment,” Dodd says. “As such, a lack of basic broadband access will significantly impair a student’s education.” So contact your local cable company about reduced rates for students. Many are offering free internet or rates as low as $10 per month.

T-Mobile is also giving all current customers access to unlimited data and 20GB of mobile hotspots and lowering prices on plans. And Comcast is offering new, low-income customers two months of free service. These are just a few examples of services you can access during this time.

Related: 3 Smart Ways to Track and Adjust Your Internet Usage

What to do about your textbooks

If textbooks and other resources make off-campus learning a challenge, businesses like Barnes & Noble are offering to help students. Jennifer Sanders, Head of Marketing, Operations, and Administration for Digital Student Solutions at Barnes & Noble Education, says while many students may be new to online learning, there’s no shortage of resources to help smooth this transition over and thrive in an online learning environment.

“Due to the shift to online classes, many students may have lost access to course materials that they normally used in a traditional classroom environment,” says Sanders. To help maintain consistency and ensure students are equipped to learn wherever they are, Sanders says textbook publishers and campus bookstores across the country have teamed up to provide students with free e-textbooks to help them finish the semester strong. 

How to access important resources

Additionally, since many students rely on on-campus writing centers, tutoring services, and in-person office hours with professors for extra help, to fill this void, Sanders says students can turn to digital tutoring, homework help, and writing assistance tools for extra help in the online learning environment. Many are being offered for free or at reduced cost through the remainder of the semester. 

“For example, at Barnes & Noble Education, we’re providing free premium access to our bartleby write tool––a 24-hour, 7-day virtual writing center that provides spelling and grammar checks, accidental plagiarism detection, and citation access,” she says. They’re also giving students access to 10 free homework questions and tutoring help from experts each month through bartleby learn—a tool that provides students with step-by-step explanations in over 20 subjects. 

Other helpful resources

Inside Higher Ed is an online resource that serves higher education. They’re publishing a lot of content about how college students can manage this transition. Also check out the Department of Education and Federal Student Aid for up-to-date, reliable information from the US government.

We have a whole page of student resources that’s regularly updated with new information on how to manage yourself during this stressful time—find it here. And feel free to email us if you need a friend!

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