Campus Bulletin: Current Students, Faculty and Staff, Parents, ObieSafe

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the 2020-21 Academic Year

June 10, 2020 1:45 PM

Oberlin College and Conservatory

1. Why is Oberlin shifting to a three-semester schedule? 

This change in the academic calendar is designed to allow us to reduce the number of students in residence at any one time and therefore “de-densify” the campus. This change provides an important layer in our public health strategy, allowing for social distancing not only in the classroom but also in residence halls, dining facilities, in our library, and in common areas. All students will receive single bedrooms in the residence halls. Students will attend two of the three terms, in order to complete their 2020-21 academic year. 

2. How long will this shift last? 

The shift to a three-term model is a temporary measure for the 2020-21 academic year. We will assess a return to the traditional two-semester academic year for all students in the 2021-22 academic year.

3. How does this impact my class schedule? 

Depending on your year at Oberlin and your degree program, you will have the opportunity to complete two full semesters on campus. Those two semesters may be fall and spring, fall and summer, or spring and summer. 

Instruction in the arts and sciences will be spread over all three terms. Arts and science students will be enrolled in the following manner during the three terms: First Years, fall and spring; Second Years, fall and summer; Third Years, spring and summer; Fourth Years, fall and spring. Class year will be determined by the number of semesters completed, including study away semesters.

The Oberlin Conservatory will take place during the fall and spring. For double-degree students, educational and residential plans will be determined on a case-by-case basis, in close consultation with students’ advisors, depending on students’ educational and degree-completion requirements.

The academic departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the deans’ office in the conservatory are carefully planning course offerings for each semester to ensure that the right courses will be taught each semester; their most important consideration is to enable you to continue progress toward your degree. The fall 2020 course schedule will be redesigned to meet density requirements and ensure that you may safely study on campus. This means that if you are studying at Oberlin this fall, you will need to re-register. We are already planning for this and will contact you as soon as plans are in place. All course information will be available by mid-July for the semesters when you will be on campus. After speaking with your academic advisor, you will have an opportunity to register for your two semesters at one time in early August.

4. When will I learn about my housing assignment?

The shift to a three-semester schedule requires us to re-initiate our housing assignment process. Students who have been approved for off-campus housing will be able to retain those arrangements. 

5. How will dorm living be different this academic year?

Each person in student residences will have their own bedroom with a door. We are planning this approach to reduce the potential spread of COVID19 and provide a private place for students to study or practice their instruments. We will restrict common areas in residence halls such as kitchens and provide extra cleaning supplies for restrooms. 

6. How will this affect students with F-1 Visas?

Those with F-1 Visas will be able to enroll in the Fall and Spring semesters as usual so as to maintain their immigration status.

7. I am a member of OSCA. How will the decision to suspend operations for at least the fall semester impact the cooperative?

OSCA is temporarily suspending its housing and dining operations. This was a difficult decision for OSCA’s leaders, and we appreciate and value their good judgment. The college will operate the residence halls OSCA typically occupies, with each student getting single bedrooms. We will continue during this time, while OSCA is pausing, to work with OSCA leadership to develop a long-term plan for OSCA to thrive. 

8. Will this adjustment impact my financial aid or student loans?

Your financial aid will be awarded for the two terms you will be attending. The amount will not be impacted by this change. 

9. What steps is the college taking to keep me healthy during the academic year?

Our goal on campus is to provide a health care strategy that slows and limits the spread of the virus. After extensive consultation with public health and infectious disease professionals, we have devised a layered approach to health care that follows the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and uses many of the principles identified by the American College Health Association. As thorough an approach as we are taking, the success of this strategy depends upon student, faculty, and staff involvement as well as the latest in testing and public health techniques. Look for a social compact that outlines how we can all behave and support each other’s efforts to remain healthy.

10. What will winter term be like this academic year? 

There will be three distinct winter term periods this year for arts and sciences and dual degree students with offerings specifically designed for each class year to strengthen cohort ties, build relevant skills, and engage imaginations during periods when students are not in academic session. Seniors will have the option of completing either group or individual projects remote from campus in August. Incoming first-year students will participate in an August pre-orientation (PAL) Winter Term experience. Juniors are encouraged to participate in a September Winter Term practicum that will focus on career exploration. Sophomores will have the opportunity to spend the month of January engaging in a comprehensive Winter Term SOAR program focused on articulating their academic trajectory and identifying experiential learning opportunities. Only seniors will have the option of completing individual projects this academic year during the August winter term period. All winter term projects will be conducted remotely.

11. How will Career Communities and other internship opportunities be affected? 

The Career Development Center will continue supporting students from all class years in their career exploration, whether they are on or off campus. 
Financial support for summer internships will resume for summer 2021. Second- and third-year students who will be on campus for the summer semester will be permitted to apply for financial support to pursue an internship during their time away from campus.
The Career Communities program will be available for third-year students who wish to participate in the Junior Practicum (which is described in President Ambar’s announcement of the three-semester calendar). The program consists of a Career Readiness Summit in September followed by a micro-internship during the fall semester.

12. How will the testing for COVID-19 be organized?

All students, faculty, and staff will be tested for COVID-19 at the beginning of each semester. Students, faculty and staff will also be tested throughout the semester, roughly once a month. 
13. Will Oberlin still have athletics?

The specifics regarding athletics are still being determined.

14. Will students be able to eat in the dining halls?

We will alter dining services to accommodate extended grab-and-go dining or socially distant seating. The dining program may need to use multiple kitchens and dining rooms to achieve best practices for commercial dining operations. The key is to limit extended interactions between large groups of people and to ensure social distancing. 

15. How will the classroom experience differ this academic year?

The classroom/lab/studio experience will be modified in order to protect the health of students and instructors. Classrooms will be arranged in a manner consistent with social distancing and the use of masks will be required for all in-person class meetings. All courses offered during the academic year will include information about the ‘‘mode of instruction,’’ in other words, whether the course will be in-person, hybrid, or remote only.

16. Who should I contact if I have additional questions?

We have established two email addresses which are being monitored. For any health-related questions, please email For all other questions please email; your inquiry will be forwarded to the office that can answer your questions. 

17. Will student employment opportunities be available? 

Student employment opportunities will be available when students are in session. 

See also: COVID-19 Planning for 2020-21 at Oberlin College