How to Stay Healthy and Safe at College During a Pandemic

Campuses across the U.S are reopening in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Here's how to stay healthy in college and avoid COVID-19.

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Students starting the academic year at U.S. colleges and universities are living through strange times indeed. Life, work and education must go on, but the risk of contracting COVID-19 on campus simply can’t be overlooked.

So whether you’re returning to school or just starting your journey in higher education, you need to know how to stay safe and healthy in college. From skipping most social activities to sanitizing your dorm room, here are our tips for managing the pandemic. For starters, here are four household products that kill the coronavirus, according to Consumer Reports.

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Keep Your Distance. No, Really

For most students, a big part of the college experience is going to parties, attending sporting events and making new friends. Yet being in a crowd is one of the riskiest activities during the pandemic.

Among its back-to-college tips, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends students stay six feet apart from one another whenever possible. And while most campuses have banned gatherings of ten or more people, you’ll still need to exercise some self-control. That means turning down the party invite, because it’s dangerous to your health and might get you suspended from school, like these students at Ohio State University.

Plus, here’s how to clean the 22 dirtiest items in your home/dorm room.

Wear a Mask

Most campuses are requiring students, staff and faculty to wear face masks in public buildings and even outdoors, at least when they cannot maintain six feet of distance. But even if your school does not require masks, the CDC says you should wear one anyway. Bring several washable masks with you to campus (see What to Pack, below), so you always have a few clean ones handy while the others are in the laundry. These are the 11 mistakes you’re probably making with face masks.

Dorm Room Safety

You can take off your mask in your dorm room, although the University of Oklahoma urges students to keep their masks on when other people — even dormmates — are present. The CDC says to avoid sharing items with roommates. Wipe down all shared surfaces (especially bathrooms) with disinfectant wipes, and don’t leave hairbrushes, toothbrushes or other personal items lying around. Plus, fill your dorm study space with the technology you’ll need for college.

Classroom and Cafeteria Safety

Classroom desks will probably already be configured for social distancing. Wipe down your desk and chair with disinfectant wipes, and do the same for cafeteria seating. The CDC recommends avoiding buffets, self-serve stations and indoor dining halls altogether by picking to-go options and eating outdoors or in your dorm room.

And here’s another important reminder: Frequently wipe down that cell phone! You touch it all day long and it’s a germ magnet.

What to Pack

Most years, a dorm packing list includes a comforter and a laundry basket. This year, your campus COVID-19 safety kit should include the following items:

  • Masks: Make sure you pack plenty of washable, reusable masks, either in basic black or something a little more colorful.
  • Hand sanitizer: Bring hand sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol. We like the idea of buying a big pump bottle and refilling small, portable bottles — less expensive and less plastic waste!
  • Disinfectant wipes: You’ll need to wipe down surfaces left and right. These pleasant-smelling wipes are good to keep in your dorm room, while this multi-pack of wipes will do the trick when you’re on the go.
  • Tissue packs:  Limit airborne particulates by keeping tissue packs on hand. With these fun cactus design tissues, you’ll always recognize your personal tissue pack!
  • Latex-free gloves (optional): This might be overkill, but better safe than sorry. Consider wearing lightweight, latex-free gloves — the kind designed for food handling — when you hit the cafeteria.

Up next, check out these dorm room ideas for what to buy, how to organize, what styles and décor to choose and more!