To Return or Not to Return? The College Spring Semester Dilemma

Like most college students, COVID-19 booted my son off campus in the middle of the spring semester. He expected to return for the fall term, but his university decided to continue his higher education in the basement teen cave. 

We are hopeful that my son can return to campus in the spring. (Twenty20 @maira_df)

My son spent his fall semester at home

My son’s sour mood improved after hearing about the campus changes: dorm rec rooms closed, food courts only permitted carry-out, and no house parties. His disappointment ended when the university town canceled their infamous Halloween celebration. As my son astutely observed, “What’s the point of going to college if you can’t party, especially during Halloween.”

Colleges can’t survive without room and board revenue, so many schools, including my son’s, are inviting everyone back for the spring semester. Students can either live on campus or continue with remote learning at home. Parents and students face a quandary.

To return or not to return, that is the question.

As a psychologist, I live for decision-making. Getting out the notepad and listing the pros and cons of a life choice is second nature. I asked my son to identify the top ten reasons he should or shouldn’t go back to campus. He pointed to the teen cave, grunted, and walked away.

I expected my son’s list to be a tad longer. Yet, I understood his one-item nonverbal argument. And I agreed, but for different reasons.

I’m a single dad, and my go-to fatherly coping mechanism is ignorance. Blessed, blind ignorance. When my only child is at college, I’m unaware of his sleep routine, eating habits, or partying. I ruminate about his progress toward graduation and fantasize about again contributing to my 401K.

Ignorance is bliss when our kids are away at schcool

During the nine months of college homeschooling, I didn’t hover, limited the teen caves visits, and wore parental blinders. Yet, avoidance didn’t work. I saw the piles of Pop-Tart wrappers and Red Bull cans, heard the countless hours of gaming, and witnessed the vampire sleep routine. 

I love and adore my son. He’s been home since March, and I was grateful for his early return. It seemed like a temporary pause in grown and flown, which permitted bonus father-son time.

Yet, the virtual learning experiment in the basement isn’t working. Online courses don’t hold a candle to in-person learning. My son’s socioemotional needs are unfulfilled.

Daddy knows too much.

Our final decision…

To explain my final decision, I’ll borrow from a slightly better writer.

To return, or not to return, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in parents’ mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous housing fees,

And to let Child against a Sea of troubles back to campus.

Or by opposing them: to argue, to not sleep.

No more; To return, rather bear those ills we have.

When we have shuffled them off to college,

Must give us pause; Yet blissful ignorance and sleep shall again be. 

More to Read:

Advice From Experts: 6 Ways to Get Through the Coming Winter

About Mark Shatz

Mark Shatz is a single dad, psychologist, and author of Comedy Writing Secrets (3rd ed). His favorite pastime is watching his college-bound son outsmart “proven” parenting techniques. Dr. Shatz’s parental rants are at:

Read more posts by Mark

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.