63 COVID Challenges #SAPros Should Prepare for Before Returning to Campus

So, your institution plans to bring you and your students back to campus this fall.


I know it’s overwhelming. I can feel your anxiety through the screen.

There’s a lot to do before you can “open back up” — in order to maximize everyone’s safety, get students engaged again, and make your everyday processes run smoothly after many unexpected months away.

You may not know where to start. So, we’d like to provide you with 63 questions to consider. No, it’s not a list of 63 things that you personally — and you alone — must answer and prepare for. Realistically, you’ll probably only be able to tackle a few. And that’s okay.

Think of this as a shared checklist. Before your institution puts its “open for business” sign out again, someone should carefully evaluate each of the questions below. And you, personally, can gain more confidence in the fall semester by helping to provide answers and solutions to at least a few. 

Good luck! We’re truly rooting for you, and we’d be happy to chat about how our tools can help. Give us a call today.

Student Organizations

1. Budget management

How will students, who may be out of practice, re-learn budget management skills? How can they manage unexpected costs brought on by the pandemic and the resulting institutional changes? (Learn how Presence can aid in budget management here.)

2. Fundraising

How can students safely raise money while social distancing? What sort of fundraises might they do? (If you’d like to go fully virtual, we have 14 fundraising ideas here.)

Also, keep in mind that many students and businesses are trying to avoid cash — as each dollar and coin is a high touch-point. So, how might student orgs use technology to fundraise instead?

3. Elections

How will you hold elections, including managing campaigns and voting day? Consider if it might be safer to conduct the entire process online.

4. Leadership transitions

How will student organizations, who were thrown into unexpected chaos last semester, catch up on transitioning to new leadership? How might you fill in open positions left by students who decided not to return to campus?

5. Collaboration

How will you empower student leaders to collaborate with each other? What unique opportunities might now be ripe for partnerships between orgs?

5. Board meetings

Will you still hold in-person board meetings? How might you change these up to make them safer?

7. Marketing 

How can students get the word out about their upcoming programs? Be sure to consider how typical marketing opportunities, such as tabling or distributing fliers, may not be effective — or even permitted by the institution — due to the pandemic.

8. Recruitment

How can students attract new members? If student org fairs aren’t permitted, out of safety concerns, how else might student leaders network with their peers? 

9. Communication

How will student leaders continue to maintain effective communication, especially in such stressful times? This list of digital tools may help. (Many are free!)

10. Constitutions

How might each student org’s goals, plans, and procedures change in light of the pandemic? And how should you encourage students to amend their constitutions as a result? (See our tips here.)

11. Meeting spaces

Might student orgs need to utilize different meeting spaces than usual? Keep in mind whether or not a space will allow students to maintain appropriate physical distancing from one another. 

How can you reduce shared contact points and provide more ventilation? Consider using projectors instead of passing around paper. You could even consider meeting outdoors, where the virus spreads less easily.

12. Being prepared for disruptions

How should student orgs prepare for further disruptions that may occur down the line? Consider that, if the pandemic worsens, your institution may make additional policy changes — including suspending all in-person campus programming again. Encourage your students to brace for this possibility.

Student Programming

13. Welcome Week

What tweaks might be necessary to Welcome Week this year? Consider health and safety measures, as well as the unique needs and interests of students.

They might be craving something different out of Welcome Welcome programming this year, to meet both their social desires and their academic preparedness.

14. Tradition programming

Look into all of your traditional programs and consider what needs to be altered or even canceled. Consider how you’ll communicate these decisions to students.

15. Athletics

Can you still host athletic events this year? And if so, will spectators be allowed or not?

And if you do indeed need to suspend all major athletic competitions, what creative things can do to satisfy the cravings of sports fans? Consider ways to keep up your school spirit, energize students on would-have-been game nights, and connect students with opportunities for exercise and friendly competition.

16. First-Year Experiences

How can you continue to set first-year students off on the right path via FYE programs? Consider how your programming may need to be altered to speak to students’ unique needs and concerns, while also taking into account how other campus opportunities — which first-year students would usually take advantage of — have been reduced this year.

17. Student programming boards

What additional support might your student programming boards need this year? What sorts of programs might they plan? Will there be institutional guidelines they need to follow?

63 Things to Prepare For

What other challenges are you trying to solve prior to the fall semester? We’d love to help you find solutions! Call us today or connect with us on Twitter @HelloPresence.

Jodi Tandet

About the author: Jodi Tandet loves writing about the magic of campus life as the Lead Storyteller at Presence. She's also passionate about baking, mental health advocacy, all the Presence office dogs, and her ever-growing podcast collection. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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