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With vaccine distribution underway across the U.S., college campuses are in the process of reopening. See how U.S. universities are working to ensure that international students will be able to study in person.

An international student receives a coronavirus vaccine on her college campus

Dear Students, Parents and Counselors,

This fall, international students should plan on studying in the U.S. in person and on campus. Allowing students to study in person is a priority not just for university leaders and staff, but also the new Biden administration. We have seen on-campus instruction proceed safely so far this year, with increasing vaccine rollouts, dedicated distribution plans and a commitment to student health and safety. U.S. universities and institutions are taking all the right steps – and implementing the right policies – to welcome international students again.

Because increased vaccinations will enable our campuses to fully reopen, demand will be high, both for domestic and international students. So, it’s wise for international students to do what they can to secure their spots now: Assume you’ll be studying in person. Apply sooner, not later. Don’t wait to send in deposits in case space runs out, and begin travel plans and visa arrangements as soon as possible. If you are able to enroll and travel even sooner (e.g., as early as summer), it will put you in a better position.

Let’s now take a closer look at what’s coming with vaccinations, so you can proceed with confidence – and deliberate speed.

Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout

Last week, the Biden administration announced it has enough vaccine for 300 million people by the end of July. At publication time, U.S. officials were administering (on average) 1.5 million shots per day, with more than 41 million already having received the first dose – the largest rollout of any country worldwide.

Additionally, vaccines have proven to be incredibly powerful, with the Pfizer vaccine showing 95% effectiveness at preventing COVID-19, and the Moderna vaccine being 94% effective. While variant cases are increasing in the US, the vaccines being used still have a high efficacy rate, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) — an encouraging trend to get students back to school.

Not only are vaccines showing promising results, but new treatments are also encouraging. At the University of Kansas, for example, researchers have started a promising new clinical trial for outpatient treatments for those recovering from the coronavirus, covering at-home medication delivered via pill, injection, and nebulizers. Together with vaccines, these treatments make important strides toward fully reopening the US.

U.S. University Campuses Have Prioritized Vaccinations in Reopening Plans

Vaccines are a major part of all U.S. university reopening plans, as are guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So, when international students get to campus, they can expect increased sanitation, social distancing, mask requirements and quarantining and reduced occupancies in classrooms and dormitories, in compliance with the latest CDC recommendations.

If you have questions about your school’s vaccination policies, reach out to your advisors to better understand the specific actions being taken.

Students Will Have Access to Vaccines On Campus

As the coronavirus vaccine rollout widens across the U.S., many campuses will host vaccination sites – and several are already doing so. For example, in January, Auburn University received 3,500 initial doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and began a phased process of inoculations based on highest risk levels and CDC guidelines. As supplies increase nationwide, expect more campuses to follow suit. At the University of Kansas, Chancellor Doug Girod has offered university resources and personnel (including KU pharmacy students) to assist in regional vaccination efforts.

“We have the resources to really scale up the rapidity with which we can get those vaccinations into arms, if we have the supply to do it,” Girod said on a recent weekly COVID-19 update call.

With increased vaccine supply, we anticipate that both domestic and international students will be able to get vaccinated on campus. Additionally, university insurance policies may offer special coverage for COVID-19 health and safety measures, including financial assistance for testing for those showing symptoms, waiving out-of-pocket costs for treatments for those who become ill and free vaccinations.

As we look ahead to summer and fall, there are many reasons to feel hopeful. International students, you can feel confident in your decision to study in the U.S. You are valued members of our university communities, and we can’t wait to see you on campus!

Tom Dretler
Chair, U.S. News Global Education
Cofounder and CEO, Shorelight
Board member, Johns Hopkins University School of Education


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