Can I go back to college in person if I’m not fully vaccinated?

Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC

Now that the COVID -19 vaccine is becoming more accessible to young people, many college students are wondering when college life will go back to normal.

Around the country, college leaders are saying that a high rate of vaccination is necessary before their schools can go back to 100% in-person classes and full capacity for on-campus living.

But it’s unlikely that all or even a large majority of college students will be vaccinated by the time the 2021 Fall Semester starts. So what should students who haven’t been fully vaccinated plan on doing in the fall?

This is a complicated question, and we don’t have all the answers yet. But student defense attorney and political commentator Shan Wu can comment on the situation here in DC.

Vaccine mandates at school


Some colleges and universities are implementing vaccine mandates for the 2021 Fall Semester. What this means for most of these schools is that their students will be required to get the vaccine if they want to attend classes in-person or live on-campus in the fall, with some medical and religious exceptions.

Rutgers University became the first US university to introduce a vaccine mandate in late March. Since then, many schools around the country have followed Rutgers’s lead, including several in DC.

Here’s the tally as of April 16th:

  • Schools that have announced a vaccine mandate for their students
    • Georgetown University
    • American University
  • Schools that have suggested to the press that they might implement a vaccine mandate
    • George Mason University
  • Schools that have announced they will not be requiring students to get vaccinated
    • Catholic University
    • Northern Virginia Community College

The best way to know for sure if your school will implement a vaccine mandate is to wait for the official announcement. If you need more information while you wait, you might consider reaching out to a close professor or administrator for informal insight into the decision-making process.

CDC guidelines

So some schools in the DC area will be making the vaccine a requirement. This probably means you won’t be allowed to move in or attend in-person classes until you’ve waited a full 2 weeks after your second dose (or your first dose, if you get a one-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson).

But what about the other schools? Is it a good idea to move in or spend time on campus if you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet?

It’s important to note that the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, is still counseling caution and social distancing while the country attempts to vaccinate as many people as possible. Even fully-vaccinated people are recommended to wear masks and social distance when in public, and to avoid medium or large gatherings to avoid the spread of the virus.

If you are immunocompromised, or you take care of someone who is immunocompromised or otherwise at greater risk of contracting the virus, it’s probably a good idea for you to continue taking online classes until you are able to receive the vaccine.

For those who do choose to move back in to campus, here are the CDC’s recommendations for people living in close quarters, like college dorms:

  • Limit errands to those that are absolutely necessary
  • Avoid using public transportation as much as possible
  • Avoid social gatherings that are not socially-distanced
  • Quarantine people who contract COVID-19

Contact a student defense attorney in DC


It seems like many DC schools will be setting strict rules about whether vaccines are required or not in the fall. And for those schools that don’t require the vaccine, students should continue to follow CDC guidelines until they are able to get the vaccine, or until enough people are vaccinated that the CDC issues new guidelines.

That being said, many universities have COVID -19 policies and guidelines that can be confusing or hard to follow.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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