Move into an apartment or take online classes at home? College students have little choice


graphic by Emily McNally

College apartments in fall of 2019 vs college apartments in fall of 2020.

by Emily McNally, Managing Editor

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Imagine a bean bag chair, a mini fridge, LED lights, a new comforter. It’s all ready for move-in day. You can’t wait to start fall semester! Now, all the decorations are in bags under your bed, in your old room at home. Little did you know… 

COVID-19 cancelled all of your plans, especially college. Now you have to finish school at home. Your last semester taken away from you. 

But that’s not the only problem. Your landlord is asking for the first month’s rent. But you’re doing school from home? Why would you pay for something you aren’t even using? 

This is exactly what college students all around the world are struggling with. 

Patrick McNally, a Senior majoring in architecture at University of Maryland had this same situation. 

Thinking he would be moving into his apartment in August, McNally signed a one year lease contract in spring 2020. This was signed before the university announced the majority of classes would be online. No one knew how long this pandemic would last. September 2020 seemed an optimistically long time away.

Now he has to finish his degree at home.

“The most difficult thing I dealt with was communication with South Campus Commons [the apartment] because sometimes they didn’t even respond to questions I’ve sent over email” McNally said. 

The campus housing officials were probably figuring out what to do, too. Nobody had any answers.

McNally’s rent was due on August 1, but the move in date was August 23. So, UMD officials expected students to pay for almost a whole month when they were only allowed to move in later that month. McNally was lucky. He had a medical reason to break the lease, but the whole process took around a month.

It’s especially difficult for architecture majors because it’s almost all studio work. The materials require a lot of space and they build large cardboard models. Online architecture majors have to improvise and make their own studio. McNally uses his desk and bedroom floor to complete his models most of the time. He occasionally visits college park so he can access the actual UMD studio.

“I chose to stay home because all my classes are online. I’d be paying to live at Maryland, where I’m not even taking any classes” McNally said. “But personally I’d rather be on campus because it’s my last semester and I would like to spend it at the school I’m graduating at.”

Still, many students really need to learn their major in person. It is not as effective through a computer screen. McNally has had trouble adapting to online learning as well.

“Online school is okay, but for my major with how social and interactive the studio environment normally is, it definitely sucks” McNally said. 

Andrew Nash, a Junior at University of Maryland majoring in Electrical Engineering is currently taking his classes online, but he is living in his apartment on campus. 

“I wanted to be around my friends and still have the college experience even though a few things aren’t happening” Nash said.

He moved in on August 23. 

Even though Nash is living on campus, he still has the disadvantage of online classes. 

“Sometimes I have no motivation to watch the lectures and it’s hard not to fall behind on assignments when I have all of these constant distractions,” Nash said. “And there is more work than normal, but being able to pause and rewind a lecture is very convenient.” 

Katie Starego, a Carroll County graduate and sophomore at Delaware University majoring in biology decided to stay in her off-campus apartment. 

“I’m definitely glad I was able to come back. A lot of my friends who were on campus are at home and are definitely struggling a little more,” said Starego. 

Starego stays off campus for the most part. For many areas, students have to make an appointment if they want to go on campus 

“My roommate is the same major as me, so we have the same classes. It’s much easier than having to Facetime her every time I have a question,” Starego said.

So which option is better? Obviously staying home and social distancing is safer and recommended, but what is the smarter choice for students’ careers?