As universities prepare for the fall semester, many students are navigating these uncertain times in different ways. Some are changing their plans and others are hoping their campus goes back to normal.

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- As universities prepare for the fall semester, many students are navigating these uncertain times in different ways. Some are changing their plans and others are hoping their campus goes back to normal.

“It was definitely hard not really being able to have a grip on what the school looked like while you were applying,” said Clare Hanna, an incoming student to the University of Tampa.

The coronavirus pandemic rocked universities and students across the nation and in western Massachusetts. As COVID-19 cases continue to decline, local colleges are beginning to plan for the fall while many students are looking forward to normalcy.

However, has the ongoing pandemic impacted how students feel about heading back to a campus that may or may not feel normal?

“Most parents and about two-thirds of high school senior students would rather not go to school if it meant they had to continue going to school from their home or their bedroom,” said Halley Shefler, president and CEO of Arts Bridge.

Shefler told Western Mass News they surveyed parents and students about what kind of college experience they would prefer for the fall after many students were learning from the couch for months.

When asked if students are remote learning is college worth the cost? Fifty-one percent of college freshmen said ‘Yes’ while 49 percent said ‘No.’

“Colleges are very expensive. There’s generally not any sort of discount for taking your classes virtually or remotely,” Shefler noted.

Shefler said the pandemic has made high school seniors more aware of all options they have.

“About 30 percent of the families we pulled said they would absolutely consider a gap year,” Shefler added.

Overall, she said many students don’t want to continue learning from their homes - something that has become a stress in many students lives.

“It’s really nerve-racking to have to ask a question and unmute yourself when the teacher still talking or nobody’s talking and you talk over them,” said Isabella Doyle, an incoming student to Florida Gulf Coast University.

Mia McDonald, a junior at Westfield State University, added, “Just being on-campus, having that freedom, and being with your friends is a lot different than sitting in front of a computer at home.”

While in-person learning seems to be a priority for local students Western Mass News spoke to, the pandemic has made some realize the financial benefits of living at home.

"Although I had initially planned on and really wanted to live on-campus, all of my classes - except for two - are still remote and going into my senior year, I won’t be on-campus as much," McDonald added.

Over at Springfield College, school officials are seeing more and more students itching to get back to the classrooms and the dorms.

“They clearly want an on-campus, in-person experience,” said Dr. Stuart Jones, vice president of enrollment management at Springfield College.

Jones told us around 93 percent of students plan to live on-campus, while only seven percent plan to commute. He said they need for students to be living on-campus has intensified.

“…Have that experience they always thought about and dreamed about,” Jones noted.

Jones said more students are delaying their decisions.

“The pandemic had serious financial impacts on families. There are families that own small businesses that were shut down or their parents or guardians were laid-off,”

Overall, he said students are excited about the future while the pandemic’s end is more in sight.

“COVID-19 is something we all want to put in the rearview mirror and students want to get back to any sign of normalcy in their educational experience,” Jones said.

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