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Articles / Applying to College / How Will the Pandemic Impact Spring Break 2021?

Oct. 15, 2020

How Will the Pandemic Impact Spring Break 2021?

How Will the Pandemic Impact Spring Break 2021?

Albert Hu/Unsplash

What's happening with spring break 2021? Spring break? Heck, the first day of fall was just three weeks ago! Why should we be thinking about spring break now? Let's recap:

Remember what happened with Spring Break 2020, in Florida, for example?


The exact number of people who returned from leisure trips to Florida with the coronavirus may never be known. Cases as far away as California and Massachusetts have been linked to the Winter Party Festival, a beachside dance party and fund-raiser for the L.G.B.T.Q. community held March 4-10. Another California man died after going to Orlando for a conference and then to a packed Disney World. Two people went to Disney and later got relatives sick in Florida and Georgia

Well, that's not going to happen this time. Spring break has changed; some say it will go away. Colleges are struggling to keep their students on campus for in-person classes. Others that started in person during the late summer or early fall have had to retreat to online. With COVID-19, trying to predict its unpredictability has become a risky roll of the dice.

Some Colleges Cancel Spring Break

That's why spring break 2021, which in normal times would commence during the first quarter of next year, has morphed into something else all together. What's happening around the country as administrators plan for and try to control spring break mania?

USA Today's Elinor Aspegren notes:

At many schools, administrators have also decided to scrap plans for spring break.

Some are instead adding shorter holidays scattered throughout the semester. Purdue University in Indiana is mandating three individual "reading days" for students. Davidson College in North Carolina is giving students two short midweek breaks in March and April. Texas A&M University is shortening spring break to a single day in March.

But others have opted to cancel the vacation entirely, aiming to reduce travel to minimize the spread of infection.

"Losing spring break will be a disappointment to many," said University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval, one campus nixing the break. "But an uninterrupted spring semester ... gives us our best chance to `Protect the Pack.'"

Lilah Burke on Inside Higher Ed reports similarly:

For the upcoming semester, eyes have shifted toward spring break. Many institutions have now canceled or altered the traditional vacation week. Those include Carnegie Mellon University, Ohio State University, the University of Tennessee, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa, Baylor University, Kansas State University, Wichita State University, Purdue University, the University of Kentucky and Davidson College. Officials have broadly said this measure is to reduce travel by the student body that could result in more COVID-19 cases.

At some of those institutions, such as Wichita State, Baylor and Iowa State, the start of the semester will be delayed, thus extending winter break.

At others, administrators have instead decided to plan for a few scattered days off. Davidson College is giving two short midweek breaks in March and April. Ohio State is giving one day off in February and one in March

In considering these schools that are canceling spring break in favor of a few scattered days off, let me make a prediction about how students will view a non-spring break semester: Where there's a will, there's a way. A while back, I coined the phrase "the human nature of college students," a kind of corollary to "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Unless colleges require their students to sign or tacitly agree to some kind of honors pledge about not gathering with groups of other partying college students, even for a scattered day or two, they're going to get together. There will be micro-spring breaks, especially at those schools close to large bodies of water with beaches in warmer climates.

Colleges in these areas will have to coordinate with local community authorities to make sure that "Beach Days" don't happen. Of course, controlling these kinds of spontaneous happenings could limit local citizens' freedom and local businesses' profits. Keeping college students from having a good time is like trying to keep a nuclear reactor under control. The potential for explosion is real and must be constantly monitored.

Some Colleges Forge Ahead

I've made a note on my calendar to follow the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Out of curiosity, I went to their website and searched for "spring break 2021" and found this on their academic calendar:

Spring Break: no-classes (Campus offices still open) Sunday, March 7, 2021 - Sunday, March 14, 2021

Either UCF hasn't made a decision about spring break yet, as many other colleges have, or they have decided to cancel or minimize it but haven't updated their site's information. Or, maybe they're committed to having it.

I also searched for a compilation of colleges that are still planning to have a spring break, but my search words were not up to the task. Thus, I don't know how many colleges across America still have it scheduled.

Next, I went to my alma mater, Penn State, to see what they had planned for spring. There's no doubt about that:

Spring Break — No Classes (University open) Cancelled

Moving to the West Coast, Harvey Mudd is still in a spring break mood:

March 12, Friday Spring break begins after last class.

March 22, Monday Spring break ends 8:00 am.

Of course, I could have continued to search selected colleges' spring break plans, but that would have been too time consuming. My point in discussing spring break 2021 is to see how colleges are reconciling their comprehensive efforts to control COVID-19 with the traditional days off during spring term or semester.

I think a college, especially a large state university, would be foolish to give their students an entire week off, in the face of a full-blown pandemic, since they have spent so much money trying to keep a lid on infections. I was also curious to see how long-established spring break venues, such as Daytona Beach, are anticipating the spring break window, so I searched for "Daytona Beach spring break 2021." What I found blew me away: A dedicated website for Spring Break 2021.

It lists four weeks, from February 27 through March 27, each with the names of the schools apparently scheduled to attend. For example, "Week 1:"

  • Assumption College
  • Boston College
  • Chestnut Hill College
  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania
  • Concordia University
  • Davidson College
  • Duquesne University
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Emerson College
  • Florida Gulf Coast University – Fort Myers
  • Florida International University – Miami
  • Johnson Community College
  • Sacred Heart University
  • University of Michigan
  • Villanova University
  • Wright State University

Weeks two and three each have six-to-seven times (!) as many schools listed. I don't know how accurate these lists are, but I spot-checked "Dickinson College," listed in Week three (March 13-20), with the official Dickinson academic calendar and found that spring "vacation" is planned for that time:

Spring Vacation 5 pm, Friday, March 12 thru 8 am, Monday, March 22

I also checked Davidson College (cited above), listed in "Week 1" and found:

  • Mid-Semester Break 1 March 3-4
  • Mid-Semester Break 2 April 7-8

That doesn't match up with the Daytona Beach site, so there are exceptions.

Summing up, spring break 2021 will be interesting to follow, as will those two-day breaks. Will students party? Will COVID-19 surge? Stay tuned!

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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