Student and Family Decision

[Last updated September 3] 


See below for answers to the following questions:


What should students consider when deciding whether or not to return to campus?

Return to campus should not be a given. This is a decision you should make in partnership with your family and primary healthcare provider based on your own health and judgment of the risks, your ability to pledge your commitment to the health protocols in place not just for yourself but for the safety of our community, and your capacity and willingness to adapt quickly to shifting circumstances and regulations beyond our control, which may include the need for a rapid closure of and departure from campus.

You may also find information on our fall 2020 approach to de-densifying campusacademics, living on campus, and student experience helpful in making your decision.

What will be expected of students should they choose to return to campus?

We are excited that students are back on campus, but it will work only if everyone – students and College employees alike – are taking individual and collective responsibility for their health, and abiding by the conduct measures that make a real difference. That means masks, physical distancing, a lot of hand-washing, and limiting gatherings. Community health is a shared responsibility. All of us on campus need to be diligent in adhering to best practices. As a community, we agree to protocols and guidelines that reflect our commitment to the health and safety of our fellow Diplomats and of our neighbors in Lancaster.

Are there health risks to returning to campus?

Reopening campus does present risks amid a pandemic, and F&M does not suggest otherwise. We are dealing with a highly transmissible disease that may be dormant or present asymptomatically. In the present circumstances, F&M cannot and does not guarantee a COVID-19-free environment on our campus. If you chose to return to campus, you understood and accepted this reality and the related risk.

What is the difference between a gap semester, leave of absence, remote learning status, and commuter status?

These terms can get confusing. Here is how F&M defines them:

  • Gap Semester or Year (also known as a deferral) - First-year students or transfer students who choose to defer or postpone their enrollment at F&M until spring 2021 or fall 2021 and do not attend another institution 

  • Leave of Absence - Returning students who wish to take a break from their studies for an extended period (semester, year, or longer)

  • Remote Learning Status - Any student who decides to not return to campus to take classes and take their classes 100% online instead

  • Commuter Status - Any student who decides to live at home (instead of in a college-affiliated residence) and commute to campus. A commuter's residence must be located within 75 miles of F&M and also be the residence of at least one parent or guardian (must be a direct adult family member e.g. aunt or uncle).

When is the deadline for students to notify the College that they wish to pursue a gap year, leave of absence, remote learning status, commuter status, or return to campus for the fall semester?

Students were asked to complete the “Fall 2020 Commitment” questionnaire to share their final fall plans by Monday, July 20. However, given the change in status for our sophomores, we are allowing sophomores to opt for a leave of absence past the July 20 deadline. The Leave of Absence form can be found on the Student Affairs website. You will need to log in to access the form. First-years who wish to discuss a deferral may reach out to the Admission office at

Can first-year students take a gap semester or year? Would they be allowed to re-enroll later without needing to reapply?

Yes, first-year students can elect to take a gap semester or defer their enrollment until the following academic year 2021-2022. First-year students will be able to enroll in the spring or fall 2021 without needing to reapply as long as they do not attend another institution.

Where can first-year students find information on orientation, important dates, and what to expect leading up to their arrival on campus?

We encourage incoming students to visit the “New Student Information” page, as well as the FAQ for New Students and Families for the latest information unique to the first-year experience.

Can a student who chooses remote learning status in the fall choose to live on campus in the spring? If so, will housing be available?

Yes, a student who decided to take a gap year or leave of absence, or to commute or study remotely, in fall 2020 can choose to live on campus in spring 2021. Get more information on campus housing.

Read more about our decision to de-densify campus and how this affects sophomores and first-year students’ spring semester.

Can a student who chooses to return to campus change their mind after July 20?

While we encourage students to take their decision and commitment seriously, returning to campus is not binding. Students can decide at any time to leave campus and instead pursue commuter or remote learning status. However, in order for the College to plan for housing, once a student chooses to not live on campus, that decision is final until the spring semester.

If a student wishes to change their enrollment status for the fall semester (from enrolled to not enrolled), they need to submit a Leave of Absence form from the Office of Student Affairs. If, because of circumstances beyond a student's control, they need to make that request before the Aug. 26 start of classes, they should complete the form and speak with their College House Dean.

Can a student who chooses commuter or remote learning status in the fall choose to live on campus at a later date to complete the semester?

No. If a student decided to not live on campus (whether taking a leave of absence or studying remotely) in the fall, the decision is final until the spring semester.  Get more information on campus housing.

Can a student who chooses to take a gap semester or leave of absence later decide to enroll in the fall semester?

No. The decision to take a gap semester or leave of absence will be final until the spring semester.

Will commuters have access to the same facilities, activities, and privileges as those living in residence?

Commuters have all the same privileges as those living on campus, except for access to residential housing. Commuters are able to attend the in-person components of their classes and any activities outside of class. Since commuters are part of the F&M on-campus community, they were also tested on first arrival to campus and are required to partake in daily self-screenings and adhere to the F&M Pledge.

Will students who had their items stored in spring 2020 and are not living on campus for fall 2020 have the option to extend their storage contract, pick up their items, or ship their items home?

Student items in Groff's Storage were paid until August 2020. If items remain in storage after August students will be charged $25 per month beginning September 2020 until those items are retrieved. You are able to contact Groff's directly to extend your contract. If the student chooses to pick up items prior to the truck's return to campus, there are additional fees and a 24-48 notice is required to pick up items at the Groff's Warehouse. For information on shipping items, please contact Groff’s storage.

Where can F&M faculty and professional staff find more information on expectations and preparation for a return to work on campus?

A Return to Work manual and COVID-19 Employee Resource site is available on InsideF&M for all employees of the College.

Who is at increased risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19?

We recommend that individuals review the CDC’s latest information on “people who need extra precautions” which includes a list of certain medical conditions that cause, or may cause, an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.