College students face tough calls ahead of fall semester

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Students and parents are facing tough choices when it comes to resuming college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some are planning to defer enrollment while others are planning to head back to campus.

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Sitara Seth is a high school graduate from Fort Bend County.

She planned on going away to school this fall, and said given all the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, she'll wait and start classes online instead.

"I'm staying at home with my parents for the full semester," Sitara said in an interview with Eyewitness News. "Hopefully, if there's a vaccine that comes out at the end of the year then we'll see what happens in the Spring semester."

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Her father, Manish Seth, said his family let Sitara decide what she wanted to do.

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"We just wanted to make sure she was safe," he said. "We let it be her decision. Obviously, there are protocols you can do: keep your mask on, wash your hands constantly. There are things we could teach her to do, but we can teach her. We don't know about the other people. That's really where the risk came in. What about the other people?"

Eleanor Kate Habich is a junior at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She said virtual learning is far different from in-person instruction and won't be allowed back on campus until at least 2021.

"I definitely feel like there was something missing when we went online," said Habich. "Having that in-person instruction and just sitting in a classroom, I just felt less motivated to do work and just learn. I think there is something that just being in that environment fosters that than being at home doesn't always."

Habich said if she was an incoming freshman, she might consider deferring her enrollment given the pandemic.

Chief educational consultant at Firat Education, Ibrahim Firat, said students and their parents should be considering what works best for them. Firat said in some cases, that might mean deferring enrollment and taking online classes at a community college to save money and complete core classes.

He also said it may make more sense to just do the minimum classes required online before returning to in-person instruction.

"It's about virtual learning adaptation, self-starting, [and] self-sustaining," said Firat. "Most students coming right out of high school may not yet be prepared to tackle the virtual online setting of college. The curriculum is different, the expectations are different from high school."

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