2020 US Universities Fall Semester Going ZOOM?

Hi everyone, I understand that this is an incredibly sensitive and strange times for many and COVID-19 has left us asking a lot of questions moving into the future. I have been hearing from friends and colleagues that next semester may potentially go virtual. Although nothing is certain and it may be too early to tell, any thoughts on the possibility of next semester going virtual as that would affect future plans for many?

Please comment if your university has mentioned/made a decision on this. Slightly losing my mind on the possibility of that for many reasons including 2021 recruitment.

Thank you.

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Comments (79)

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Apr 14, 2020 - 8:52pm

See now this might be an actual interesting discussion rather than the sixth ridiculous ranking thread this week. As of now, I would lean towards colleges remaining online for the fall semester with local public high schools, middle, elementary, etc. in safe areas possibly opening up but with a lot more distancing/safety guidelines. Things are surely slowing down but that's only because everyone has been on lock down for over 2+ weeks. I don't see how this entire mess doesn't just begin again once everyone goes back out, particularly with colleges where people are literally flying in from all over the world.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 14, 2020 - 10:49pm

Honestly I'm expecting target schools like Harvard/Yale/Princeton to be the most likely to transition to Zoom due to PR reasons. Semi-targets such as UVA/UNC/UCLA will probably base their decisions more on how the state goes, while no name random nontarget school will almost certainly be open.

Apr 15, 2020 - 8:02am

Dean of Harvard: "Hey did Goldman come onto campus last year to recruit for their IB summer internships?"

Career Services: "Yep, so did Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan"

Dean: "FUCK, guess we gotta stay closed"


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  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 14, 2020 - 9:02pm

For Boston schools, Harvard, MIT, and BU all have administrators who say they're highly considering it. BU is considering completely delaying the fall semester and moving it to summer 2021 (recipe for disaster imo). Northeastern is considering a delayed start or virtual semester.

  • Prospect in 
Apr 14, 2020 - 9:05pm

I appreciate comments like this. Did they say anything about when they would make a decision?

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 14, 2020 - 9:17pm

No timeline for a decision yet. I think they know it's quite a long time I'm advance so they're likely nervous to commit to anything. Would be surprised if there was any official decision before August.

Apr 14, 2020 - 9:09pm

I'll throw in my 2 cents. Universities are huge bureaucracies. Bureaucracies operate on standard operating procedures in order to mitigate risk and liability as much as possible. Each universities decision regarding this matter will que off of others. Harvard for example isn't just going to decide to conduct classes on campus if Penn and Dartmouth aren't. If they did, what would happen if someone got sick? What would happen if the majority of their student body was foreign, and the situation in their home country wasn't under control? No college wants to be THAT college that ends up being the center of COVID 19 2.0. Imagine the backlash from donors, parents and city officials.

If the CDC is still limiting gatherings and recommending people to social distance at the start of the fall semester you will take your classes online.

  • Prospect in 
Apr 14, 2020 - 9:12pm

But they can't wait until the fall - they have to make a decision sooner or later to give people a choice whether they want to enroll or not

Apr 15, 2020 - 3:48pm

You'll live. I can't fucking tolerate how dramatic we've become. What a privilege to consider 3 months of sitting on your couch taking online classes a hardship - that's truly some soft ass shit. It's so tiring hearing people complain about distancing while there are thousands of healthcare workers grinding like mother fuckers for a check we'd consider measly; all the while, we're sitting on our asses bitching that we've had a few liberties temporarily revoked. It's time someone told you that makes you a pussy - fuck that shit.

Find ways to get yourself out of your comfort zone. Look at yourself in the mirror and take an inventory check - what don't you like? Tired of having gangly arms, a flabby stomach, or not feeling healthy? If you're like a majority of the people I see working in finance, that's probably the case. Get down and crank out some burpees; go run 5 miles; find a bar and commit to 100 pull-ups and don't walk away until you finish. Two people will come out of this: savages who took a genuine look at themselves, identified what they can improve, and fucking did it; fairies who self-pitied and massaged their sorrows by indulging in the very things that make them so uncomfortable with themselves.

If you feel like you have trouble keeping company with yourself, odds are you're not happy with yourself. Without a constant faucet of validation from our peers, I guess that's understandable. This is the perfect time to harden your mind and make yourself someone you're content spending some on-on-one time with; this ain't going away anytime soon and pitying your own company for a year or longer won't be any fun.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
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  • Intern in IB - Cov
Apr 15, 2020 - 4:02pm

I'd agree with this. Like I completely agree with people getting really worried and anxious about their internships or FT roles, but so many idiots are crying about having to just take classes online. If that's what it takes to stop this shit and keep our jobs while still also getting the very same credits to graduate on time then do it you pussies you won't die not drinking for a few months but you probably will if you have no job and starve. Should things like tuition be much lower with online? yeah sure no doubt, but get over yourself you miserable pussies there is a global pandemic the likes of which WILL NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN IN YOUR LIFETIME OR YOUR CHILDREN'S! As long we contain this shit we can all go on to our FT BB/EB roles come next year Train your spirit and mind you miserable losers. Enjoy Zoom in the Fall because guess what? It's just about a certainty at this point classes will be online in the fall and there are plenty of other comments laying this out.

  • Summer Associate in ER
Apr 16, 2020 - 6:31am

Let me enlighten you about why I hate online classes. Firstly, half of my professors don't even know how to use Zoom. They put up a face-cam, without even showing the power-point/problem that they're talking about. Secondly, my professor has a dog barking half of the lecture and a 8 year old kid running around. On top of that, I only have a 14 inch laptop and nothing else that I can use for my classes. Do you know how tiring it is to stare at a screen all day? Let alone a 14 inch screen? Before Corona, I wrote all my notes by hand because I dislike using laptops. Furthermore, I live with a 3 roommates (one in the same room), all of which do not go to University anymore and are less than considerate of my classes.

I f-ing wish I lived on my own and had a 27 inch screen and competent teachers. I don't. I've worked out every day for a week straight. If the government asked for the public's help in treating people who have fallen ill, I would be the very first one to volunteer.

  • Prospect in AM - FI
Apr 14, 2020 - 10:00pm

shouldn't we be fine, within the next 8 weeks (I'm optimistic), all the asymptomatic carriers will recover, and all the people who those people hung out with (family, friends) will recover as well. That was the case with China after all.

Apr 14, 2020 - 10:11pm

China took completely different measures to contain the virus which consisted of surveiling every single move of people in the affected areas. I highly doubt the US will take similar measures such as locking people into their homes.


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  • Intern in IB - CB
Apr 14, 2020 - 10:16pm

A good way to view this discussion is the following: If colleges decide to move classes online for fall 2020 semester, then they are operating under the assumption that people are not back in the office working day to day by then either. With that being said, when you look at when people can start going back to work in offices, the chances of that being anytime past the fall are extremely low. Most likely, people will resume work this summer (late summer at the latest), so why would colleges remain online when practically everyone is back in the office? Our country can not physically operate like this for much longer (a few weeks), without long term structural damage to the economy.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Apr 14, 2020 - 10:33pm

Offices and local schools are far different from colleges. It is likely offices and businesses will be open to some degree in the fall (with albeit strict safety/distance measures in place) but colleges have people coming in from all over the country and the world. Even without that, just imagine freshman dorms that are essentially petri dishes already for sickness spreading, huge lectures (no different than opening sporting events again), dining halls, etc. Also I think a lot of people are confused in viewing this as a thing that if we wait long enough, the virus will just then just go away. Once everyone goes back out again (particularly college kids crowding bars and cramped dormitories) things will just spread again unless you believe in some type of herd immunity developing...

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Apr 14, 2020 - 11:31pm

At my university (top 40 non-target), summer classes will be online, while the plan at the moment is to have fall 2020 classes on campus for domestic students and online for international students. This isn't set in stone yet though and I would not be surprised if classes go online for all students if the situation isn't resolved within a few months. It's honestly too early to tell for sure and a final decision probably won't be made until late summer.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 15, 2020 - 2:43am

I highly doubt schools can afford this. You are not considering the fact that if the fall semester goes online many first years will defer, reducing the colleges' income from tuition significantly. Even with billions of dollars in endowment, the current situation in the markets + graduating seniors and no first years to replace them + overall impeding recession.... it's not looking good. They are going to have to open. Also I seriously can't do another semester of Zoom University damnit.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Apr 15, 2020 - 2:51am

come on dude, students aren't depended on for revenue at most decent schools, and i doubt freshman will defer

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 15, 2020 - 3:02am

Under normal conditions I'd agree, but if you look at the breakdown of revenue sources for schools about 17-20% comes from tuition. You have to remember that endowments probably have negative returns in this environment and that US sponsored research/research income will drop drastically, the combination of these unfortunate circumstances will put a huge strain on schools regardless of caliber (ofc I don't include Harvard that's sitting on $38 BILLION).

  • Prospect in S&T - Other
Apr 15, 2020 - 4:31am

Really not looking forward to a possible zoom university in the fall. Online learning is not very engaging...

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Cov
Apr 15, 2020 - 10:54am

I have my doubts as to whether it's worth it for schools to stay online for the fall because staying online for the fall implies that something will change between August and January when, chances are, things will probably be just as bad if not worse in January than Aug.
I think it will largely depend on testing and tracing abilities, antibody testing, and any potential treatments that come available. If there are treatments that will decrease severity/death rates then I don't see why we would need to continue this sh*t through the fall.
Further, schools aren't "highly considering" this option, they are planning for it as a contingency if it is deemed necessary, all schools as of now are planning to go back in August.
By the looks of it, our curve is flattening and should be near 0 by June which would give us a second chance to mass test and contact trace and attack this shit before it comes back in the fall.

Apr 15, 2020 - 4:04pm

Schools are in a tough spot here because both options have a lot of downsides

Remaining remote

  • Unfair playing fiseld. Students have different access to good wifi, quiet workspaces, free time

  • Many students will opt out for a year. However when the situation improves down the road colleges can't have graduating classes sizes being 1.5x.

  • The portion of students that would take the semester off are the ones who are paying full freight which would further cause cash flow issues.

Going back to "normal"

  • Nothing at college is socially distanced. Sleeping, eating, classes, sports, and going out all put everyone at risk to be exposed.

  • Very very bad PR is a school has to deal with a cluster of outbreaks and faculty deaths due to desire to resume

  • Immunocompromised students and faculty wouldn't be able to return to campus.

TLDR If colleges dont open up they will have a cash flow issue and it will be hard to ensure classes are fair. If they resume as normal they face a health risk and very bad PR.

Apr 15, 2020 - 5:36pm

My mom teaches at a CUNY community college and the cuny system is having serious discussions about staying online in the fall and even in the spring. It's really not going to be fun if I can't go back to school but there are many in this country with way worse situations.


  • Prospect in 
Apr 15, 2020 - 5:48pm

THIS IS what I am curious about. I understand and appreciate all the input and comment, but I am curious what universities are saying if they have said anything! It allows us to better gauge comparable decision making and how it will affect our respective universities.

Apr 15, 2020 - 8:00pm

Thanks dude. They haven't told anything to the cuny students yet. I'll let you all know if there are any updates from her or if my uni tells me anything.


Apr 15, 2020 - 6:15pm

The whole "rich schools will do X, others will do Y" is total nonsense.

Schools will pretty much do the same thing as each other. Maybe a little regional variation for weather, but even that's unlikely. Risk rules the day, and few schools will have the balls to stay open if most others don't. OTOH if we return to work mid-summer and things are going OK, schools won't have much reason to stay closed.

Can't make sense of the comments saying some schools can't "afford" to close. Operating remotely isn't going to cost the schools much. They still have tuition (slightly discounted if at all) and endowment to support them. They lose room and board, which isn't nothing, but a lot of costs also go away with dorms closed. For only one semester, it's not much loss.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Apr 15, 2020 - 8:21pm

How is returning to work the same as cramming a bunch of kids from all over the country into dorms? Sounds like a recipe for starting this shit all over again.

Apr 15, 2020 - 9:30pm

Not the same. But we've been shut down for a month. September 5 months away. What will be in place by then. We don't know but odds are: testing, contact tracing, treatments etc. Work not entirely uncorrelated either. Doesn't have to be exactly the same thing as a dorm to be a data point.

  • Intern in VC
Apr 15, 2020 - 11:48pm

Not a big fan of Zoom classes myself. (Junior right now)

I like to prepare for the worst and I know most schools have the funds and resources to go online for the fall semester.
Although I do believe a large amount of small private liberal arts schools who were already struggling are probably going to go underwater.
An interesting article on the subject if you are interested:

Next semester I'm taking behavioral economics, in addition to some acting classes to fulfill general education requirements. (Should easily be a 4.0 semester)
I'll end up at either a start-up accelerator or Sand Hill Road VC firm after graduation if everything goes as planned and if the economy is not utter shit. If not I'll figure something out as I always tend to do.

What I am really missing is the comradery between my peers. I was just starting to find my friend group last year. I was also waiting to leverage my network to get introduced to this awesome girl from Atherton. Damn image being cock blocked by a virus.

(I'm just venting right now and hoping all my life plans do not unravel)

Apr 16, 2020 - 10:14am

FWIW SAT / ACT has started developing online versions / testing procedures for students in case that's the road they go down come Fall.

Universities tend to be quite risk averse... after all they're dealing with "kids" and tens of thousands of them, from all over the world, at that. (Imagine the fucking nightmare if an international kid from comes in the Fall and COVID 2.0 happens or if he contracts it domestically and takes it back home).

Think of the massively negative PR schools like Penn State got / get for the one child that died due to gross incompetence of his frat brothers. Now imagine the backlash they'd face if 5, 10, 50, 100, kids got sick and a portion died / transferred the virus after contracting it.

The responses will all be contingent on what WHO / CDC / local governments are saying at the time as well as the global state of the virus, but I would bet that almost all universities are at least considering or actively preparing to be virtual in Fall. If things turn out to be in person then whatever they lose a few million they invested to prepare. But being unprepared for online classes next year will be far more costly.

The level of preparation / tech capabilities will no doubt be a selling point to acquire students.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 16, 2020 - 10:29am

Using this line of reasoning what is the incentive for colleges to ever be onsite again?

Apr 16, 2020 - 12:35pm

I'm a little out of touch with the college landscape but I know that this has been a point of discussion brought up in the work force as well. If we find people to be a satisfactory level of productive from home, why bother with CRE space / electric / water / maintenance costs to host every employee in an office? While it's an interesting thought exercise and I think will definitely be considered in the future, it's just really not top of mind right now.

I would venture to guess that colleges see downside right now as well. School extracurricular are big - sports, clubs, meets, debates, stock pitches, etc are all limited or completely inaccessible to students while virtual. You lose a sense of camaraderie, sporting event attendance is non-existent, research can't be done from home (missing hardware), etc.

I think all of the above and more is a big reason that 2 years ago if you compared online programs vs. in person programs on average you would see a massive difference in quality of education, research, and students enrolling at both.

Right now and looking forward in the short term this is a "cost" that universities are willing to incur - an overall worse experience for it's students - to protect them, their communities, families, and frankly the world from a virus. The cost is even more bearable right now since most if not all universities are subject to the same limitations and thus no one university is relatively better off than another (Alabama, Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State, etc. all have halted athletic / EC programs). If in 2 years a subset of these schools decided to stay online then you'd have a situation where the value prop of going to Clemson / OSU (in person) is way better than PSU / Alabama (virtual) - colleges see adverse impacts from admissions revenue / etc. and the new equilibrium is to be in person.

Comparing to my workforce paragraph above, JP / GS / MS can all send people home and then not renew their CRE leases in their various offices. If PSU / Alabama sent their kids home in favor of an online program then it's much harder to re-purpose their dorms / classrooms / dining halls / etc.

Apr 16, 2020 - 4:28pm

Because unlike in Europe where a large majority of your educational expenses are financed by the government, schools in the U.S are a businesses that require adequate market share to be successful. They don't just sell you an education, they sell you an experience, they sell you a legacy to be a part of. I go to a target school, I teach myself everything with pirated books and Google. You can teach yourself anything, don't ever let anyone tell you that you cant, especially a university that wants to sell you on the fear that you cant.

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Apr 17, 2020 - 5:47pm

I think one of the big questions of all of this is how many students will push off fall semester if it's held online. I personally will be part time if classes are online because I only need three credits to graduate and I really struggle with online classes. Why bother paying full price when I'm getting half of what I bargained for?

Also, let's say things aren't better this fall. Who's to say they'll be better in the spring? Fall 2021? Who on earth would want to attend college online indefinitely? Surely they'll realize that many will choose not to enroll and pay ridiculous amounts of money for what's essentially going to be the educational quality of Phoenix U. I'd rather sit on my ass and work out at home or do research with a professor for free than pay $28k in tuition to watch 13 hours of videos a week and learn absolutely nothing.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 17, 2020 - 7:00pm

i guess i am also concerned about grading.. if school is online in the fall and grading is still p/f, my GPA is staying the same for a year? really played myself for taking all the hard classes too early in my college career rip

Apr 17, 2020 - 7:16pm

I have a feeling that some schools will probably revert back to regular grading as they'll believe that some students will have adjusted to the online classes (well not the freshmen) and most professors (obviously not the ones that only teach in the fall) will have already had time to turn their curriculum into the online format and see what does and doesn't work so that it can be taught again next semester. Will definitely be an issue as not all schools will have the same policy but yeah taking hard classes early is starting to look like it will backfire for some people


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  • Intern in IB - Gen
Apr 21, 2020 - 9:47am

I feel like most schools give you the option to take classes pass/fail or for a grade during the pandemic so a) why would that change for the fall if classes are still online and b) why don't you just take the classes you think you'll do well in for a grade rather than, as you said, keep your GPA the same as it was

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Apr 24, 2020 - 11:56pm

I'm at a state school and we have the option of taking them regular or p/f. if your university sticks with p/f maybe you could lobby to take them regular grading? just a thought

  • Summer Associate in IB - Gen
Apr 18, 2020 - 1:51pm

I still feel like if its virtual classes then there will at least be optional P/F. This is not so much about student getting used to online classes, but about FGLI/Intl students who might be disadvantaged in a virtual format

  • Intern in IB - Gen
May 14, 2020 - 12:25pm

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May 28, 2020 - 6:50pm

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