Every time you turn on the news or open up Twitter, there it is: a new story or development about COVID-19.
Colleges and universities have been planning all summer for what they hoped would be a “back to normal” fall semester, but with COVID cases back on the rise and the Delta variant causing concerns, we are faced with yet another challenging school year.
And higher ed staff aren’t the only ones stressing: students are, too.
- Do I need to be wearing a mask everywhere I go on campus?
- What is my school’s stance on vaccination requirements?
- Is it safe to be living in a dorm?
Texting can keep students informed about vaccine and mask expectations
If your institution is requiring all students to be vaccinated or is recommending that they are, it’s important to communicate that with students before they step foot on campus. For students that aren’t vaccinated yet, share resources to help them book an appointment. If you have mask requirements, provide that information as well. Knowledge is power, and it will help alleviate any confusion when the semester begins.
Try using these texting templates in the weeks leading up to the semester, and even throughout the year, to align with your school’s COVID policies.
[TEXT EXAMPLE: WEARING MASKS]
Hi <FIRST NAME>, it’s <STAFF NAME> from <COLLEGE NAME> just reminding you that masks are required at all indoor facilities on campus! If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reply to this message.
[TEXT EXAMPLE: VACCINATION REQUIREMENT]
Hi <FIRST NAME>, it’s <STAFF NAME> from the Student Health Department! <COLLEGE NAME> is requiring all students to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by <DATE>. Do you need help booking an appointment? If you’re already vaccinated, bring your vaccine card with you on move-in day.
[TEXT EXAMPLE: MENTAL HEALTH CHECK-IN]
Hi <FIRST NAME>, it’s <STAFF NAME> from the Counseling Center. I wanted to check in and see how you were feeling about being on campus, and let you know that there are tons of free mental health resources available if you’re overwhelmed about classes or COVID-19. You can see what’s available to you here: <LINK>.
Create a COVID-19 hub on your website
Students may not be comfortable reaching out to your staff directly if they’re having concerns about COVID, so it’s important to make your policies and resources readily available on your website. Having a dedicated COVID-19 webpage is a great way to house all of your latest communications regarding vaccine and mask requirements, measures that you’re taking to keep students safe, and mental health and academic support resources available.
You can take it a step further and utilize a chatbot playbook on your homepage or Student Health page to make it even easier to find COVID resources, schedule a vaccine appointment at the Student Health Office, or reach out to a mental health counselor.
When it comes to the pandemic, it’s hard to know what the next day will bring.
CDC guidelines and state regulations are always changing, so it can be hard to keep your institution’s policies up-to-date. But the more you can communicate with students about what to expect and what your requirements are, the safer they’re going to feel coming back to campus.