The spread of the coronavirus — COVID-19 — is creating unprecedented challenges for students at all levels around the world, including those enrolled in higher education. We know that our students are no exception. As you navigate what these changes mean for your own education, we want you to know that Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is committed to supporting you through every step of this journey. We will all get through this by working together.
“At NOVA, our first priority is our students’ safety and well-being,” says Frances Villagran-Glover, Vice-President of Student Services at NOVA. “We are committed to doing whatever we can to provide the holistic support they need to continue their education.”
Let’s face it, there are many things beyond your control at the moment — but your education does not have to be one of them. You can continue to take charge of your education and you can continue to make progress toward meeting your academic and professional goals. One important step to maintaining your educational momentum is to keep these five strategies top of mind:
- Remain informed.
- Keep moving forward.
- Embrace NOVA distance learning.
- Prioritize your well-being.
- Take advantage of NOVA COVID-19 resources.
- Remain Informed
Suffering from information overload? That’s not surprising. With new details emerging every day and a 24/7 news cycle, it is pretty easy to become overwhelmed by all the news related to the coronavirus. While obsessively checking the headlines from every news outlet may be more stressful than helpful, here’s something that is helpful: keeping your education on track by staying on top of NOVA COVID-19 updates online. They will help you make informed decisions about your education and help you create your action plan.
You’ll find important information related to the pandemic on the NOVA COVID-19 section of our website which is updated frequently with new information. NOVA priority or urgent messages will appear on the home page of the website and also be sent out via text. You can also visit the NOVA COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions page to find answers to common concerns related to the virus.
“We know students are busy, but the FAQs and NOVA COVID-19 website section have a lot of important information,” says Sheri Robertson, NOVA Interim Chief Academic Officer and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Liaison. “Reading those updates is valuable.”
- Keep Moving Forward
“You had goals before COVID-19, and those goals are still there,” Villagran-Glover says. “You should keep pushing forward, if possible. Despite the disruption we are experiencing, your education is still your key to economic and professional advancement.”
We understand that you may be navigating through home, work, or financial changes that make your normal learning schedule a challenge. To best take control of your education in the midst of these complications, it is important to keep moving forward. In fact, retaining some sense of normalcy by continuing your studies can be helpful for reducing anxiety.
However, continuing to take your planned courses is not just about creating consistency — it’s also about building your future. Because some classes are only offered once a year, pausing your education could have more of an impact than you anticipate. While you are welcome to take a break from your program and return in the future, dropping or postponing certain courses could significantly delay when you can expect to complete your studies and move forward with the next steps in your life or career. Consequently, it is important to discuss your options with an advisor before you make any decisions.
- Embrace NOVA Distance Learning
One of the most significant changes implemented by the NOVA COVID-19 response is the switch from on-campus classes to distance learning. Whether you are a first-time learner online or a distance learning pro, effectively managing the challenges of this transition is critical for your continued academic success.
What you learn remains the same in the switch from on-campus to online; how you learn may require a few adjustments.
When taking NOVA distance learning classes, Villagran-Glover recommends that you try to create a separate study area where you can limit distractions and organize your materials. While you may not have an extra room to spare, try to find a space where you can consistently do your work. When it is time to log in to class, consider getting dressed and preparing like you normally would when leaving the house. You may even want to put on shoes. These steps can help put you in the mindset you need to focus on your course despite the lack of a physical classroom. It can be hard to take a class as seriously as you normally would if you are still in your pajamas with a TV show on in the background.
Have questions? Do not be afraid to reach out to your professors, NOVA administrators, or the many student services available remotely for help with any challenges related to distance learning. Whether you are experiencing technical difficulties, sharing your laptop with multiple family members, or simply having trouble focusing, there are resources designed to help you manage these challenges and continue your education. Faculty, staff, and administrators alike, we are all learning together during this time and we all want to see you succeed in this distance learning educational environment.
“You’ve invested so much,” Robertson says. “You should be proud of your resilience and how far you’ve come. It's been pretty amazing to watch how our students have adapted in response to the coronavirus.”
- Prioritize Your Well-being
In the midst of change, it can be easy to neglect your own well-being. Your academic success is important — but it should not come at the cost of your emotional, mental, or physical well-being. Be sure to take the time you need to take care of yourself during this crisis, even if it means giving a little less than 100% at all times.
“It’s OK to feel anxious,” Villagran-Glover says. “It’s a human response.”
To reduce stress, NOVA is offering all students the option to take Spring 2020 courses pass/fail. If you are worried about how this period of disruption and increased anxiety will impact your GPA, you may want to consider this route instead of a letter grade.
If you are still stressed about your coursework, do not hesitate to reach out to your professors or other members of the NOVA community to determine the right accommodations or next steps — whether that means connecting with a NOVA online tutor or even taking a temporary break from your studies.
“There are people at NOVA who are willing to help you make it work,” Robertson says. “But if you choose to hit pause, that’s OK, too. You can come back when you’re ready.”
There is no shame in asking for help, especially during a time of crisis. Everyone has unique needs and we want to help make sure yours are met so you can focus on your education now or later.
- Take Advantage of Available Resources
As you take control of your academic progress, remember that you do not have to do it all on your own. NOVA has introduced — or expanded — a number of resources and accommodations to help you stay on track as you work through some of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. From registration through graduation, you will find the tools you need to advance your goals at every step of your academic path.
“Our goal as an institution is to be intentional and mindful about the well-being of our students,” Villagran-Glover says. “Even before COVID-19, we were committed to providing a culture of caring. Now, we’re reaching out, checking in, and being even more intentional to help provide for students’ holistic needs.”
Take advantage of the following NOVA COVID-19 resources and accommodations that are designed to help you take control of your education in spite of the disruption created by the evolving situation. From tutoring to financial support to maintaining campus life — online — you can find the help you need to stay in charge of your learning goals:
- Flexible enrollment dates: Still figuring out what the next months look like for you? Flexible enrollment dates will be offered throughout the summer and fall semesters to help accommodate your schedule and circumstances during this time.
- Virtual advising: Have questions about your schedule or other academic needs? Take advantage of NOVA remote advising sessions offered throughout the week, as well as on Saturdays.
“Virtual advising provides a personal connection, which is really helpful at a time like this,” Robertson says. “It offers an opportunity to discuss and address your specific circumstances.”
- Online tutoring: Get the help you need to succeed in your courses by taking advantage of NOVA tutoring online. You can request an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. As a NOVA student, you also have free access to com, a 24/7 option for online academic assistance.
- Online office hours: Though you cannot meet with your instructors on campus, they are still available for extra help when you need it through virtual office hours. Contact your professors for times, login information, and other details.
- Pass-fail grades: As we previously mentioned, in light of the current disruption created by COVID-19, you now have the option to take your Spring 2020 courses as pass-fail grades. You will be opted in unless you specifically request a letter grade.
- Financial aid videos: Have questions about your financial aid package, FAFSA, or other financial topics? Find the answers you need in these helpful videos, created by NOVA’s Financial Aid office.
- NOVA COVID-19 assistance: If you need help with your finances because of a situation related to COVID-19, please contact Diana Yacob, Financial Expert from NOVA’s Financial Stability Program at email@example.com.
- NOVA’s Financial Aid office is also offering one-on-one phone and Zoom meetings with students who have questions and concerns about financial aid. You can find the contact information you need to set up a meeting here.
- Financial Stability Program: Through NOVA’s Financial Stability Program, you can access personalized, non-academic services, including financial coaching, emergency assistance, and access to community resources.
- Single Stop: Do you have practical needs or need help figuring out how to manage it all? Finding the resources you need is easy with Single Stop, NOVA’s “one-stop-shop” for connecting you with a variety of benefits and assistance, including:
- Child care services
- Energy assistance
- Food assistance (e.g. SNAP, W.I.C.).
- Health care coverage
- Immigration assistance
- Legal assistance
With this online tool, NOVA can help you connect to the local community and governmental resources (e.g. SNAP, TANF, etc.) that offer the support you need outside the classroom. You can use the tool to estimate (in just minutes) what supplemental resources you may be eligible to receive. If you have any questions or need help getting started, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703.323.3450.
- NOVA COVID-19 Emergency Grants: To help students navigate the personal and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NOVA has launched a new emergency fund for those with the greatest financial need. We are hard at work with our fundraising efforts to meet our goal of awarding 1,500 grants of $500 each.
- Parking passes: All parking passes purchased for the spring semester will be refunded. Contact Parking Services for additional assistance.
- Virtual Student Union: Missing campus life? Stay connected with your NOVA community through the Virtual Student Union, which offers online events and other opportunities to stay in touch with your fellow Nighthawks.
- Library services: Campus may be closed, but you can continue to access many of our standard library resources and services entirely online, including webinars, e-books and online magazines and journals. Need help? Our “Ask a Librarian” feature is available 24/7.
- WiFi access: You can still access NOVA internet responsibly during this time. To ensure students have access to the internet while social distancing, campus Wifi has been enabled in NOVA parking lots.
- Mental health services: Need someone to talk to? If you would like to speak to a mental health provider, you can find professionals available to faculty, students, and staff on our NOVA online Community Provider Database.
Advance Your Career at Northern Virginia Community College
If you are new to NOVA and considering enrolling for the first time, don’t let the pandemic deter you, we’d love to welcome you into the NOVA family!
As the second-largest community college in the United States, our six campuses — Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, MEC (Springfield) and Woodbridge, along with the Reston Educational Center and NOVA Online — put higher education at your fingertips with more than 120 degrees at the associate level as well as many career-focused certificate options. Contact NOVA Admission and Registration and take the next step to learn more about furthering your academic and professional goals as a member of our community.
Don’t Hit Pause on Your Future
Whether you are new to NOVA or have been with us for a while, it’s OK to feel anxious or overwhelmed. We are all feeling this way. While it may be hard, try not to stress about what you cannot do, focus on what you can do. Your education is one big part of your life that should remain on your can-do list.
As we continue to navigate the evolving COVID-19 pandemic together as a community, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions. You can reach us by calling 703-323-3000, emailing email@example.com, or using the chat function on our website. We’re listening and we are here to help — you matter to NOVA. Always.
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.