Student Resources
6 min read

How to choose a school in the middle of a pandemic?

Selecting a university and field of study for your higher education is a momentous decision for any prospective student. The course of study you pursue will have a direct impact on your future career and livelihood. It also offers you an incredible opportunity to expand your understanding in an area that interests you and broaden your horizons.

For many people, the enormity of this decision can feel overwhelming and stressful, even in normal circumstances. However, when students are faced with this decision in the midst of a global pandemic and the uncertainties and challenges it presents, this can feel even more daunting. Students not only have to consider the area where they would like to work and the course of study they should follow, but also health factors related to safety on campus, the ability of their school of choice to provide digital classes in the instance of a shutdown and lastly, if their field of study will help them pivot and navigate the post-pandemic world.

Students faced with this huge decision will need to carefully evaluate their school options with these additional factors in mind. EHL Admissions Director, Ikerne Azpilicueta, suggests that students preparing to enter a college or university should keep five key factors in mind. Here is what students should look for as they evaluate their different school options to help them make the decision that will best suit them.


Closely examine the healthcare system at the school

When the pandemic began to circulate the globe, students and their families quickly realized the critical importance of the healthcare available to students. At times like these, people are looking out for effective management strategies and are becoming increasingly aware of what healthcare systems are available in different international cities and regions, and the varying contamination rates. Switzerland is fortunate to have an exemplary healthcare system that has worked to keep citizens and residents cared-for throughout the pandemic. The healthcare system is regularly ranked as one of the best in the world. Students in Switzerland might feel reassured by staying closer to home, where they can access a familiar healthcare system in the case of an emergency.

Those who want to go abroad and experience cross-cultural benefits during their college career should carefully evaluate the local healthcare systems in their country of choice. Look at how the local hospitals and health guidelines have protected people and cared for them in times of need.

For EHL, the Singapore campus gives students the chance to experience life in Asia, while at the same time, offering the reassurance of a healthcare system that has received global praise in recent months. Singapore’s management of the pandemic has been considered exemplary on an international level, with other countries looking to Singapore’s success with admiration. This can create an excellent option for students wishing to go abroad but remain in a safe environment.


The digital experience of the school

When the pandemic caused local governments to enforce restrictions on in-person school operations, countless schools had to transition to some type of virtual or digital learning option. This has resulted in countless classrooms closing and a rapidly multiplying number of online courses offered by colleges and universities.

It is important for prospective students to take a close look at the digital options adopted by a school. Although no one wants to take their courses 100 percent online, students who find themselves taking online classes want to make sure that the courses will offer them the same level of education that they sought when they selected this particular college or university.

As Azpilicueta explains,

“We have invested a lot in the last few months at EHL to accelerate our digital offer through technical equipment, training for the faculty, review of courses and pedagogy, etc.”

These types of steps help to create a learning environment where students can feel confident that their school is ready and capable of producing quality distance education.

At EHL specifically, the school has modified its distance learning capabilities to create a hybrid base, bringing together the best features of in-person and remote learning. At the same time, this model allows the key university classes to easily adapt to account for changing circumstances. Students have responded positively to these new teaching models, as they see that the school has adjusted appropriately to new developments without sacrificing the health and safety of the students, whilst at the same providing optimal learning platforms.

Students chosing a new schools also need to consider the parts of student life that have become largely online endeavors. Students often find themselves taking part in group projects, school events or other social interactions - these types of activities form an important part of the student experience.

The technology provided should allow students to easily meet virtually and collaborate on different types of group-based tasks. At EHL, Azpilicueta says “Our Student Affairs teams have been working closely with the Student Council and committees to ensure that students have the tools and support to continue developing their activities online.”

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Health and safety measures available at the school

In addition to looking closely at the local safety network in the school’s region, students should also carefully examine the health and safety measures on the campus and other areas of the school. Even if students spent a lot of time learning virtually, the campus itself comprises a large portion of their school experience, and students need to make sure that the school is taking the necessary safety and hygiene steps. Students want to know that the school they select prioritizes their health.

For example, at EHL, the school has worked to create opportunities for incoming students to chat with current students to learn more about the school and the opportunities available while attending completely virtually. Many prospective or incoming students ask current students about their experiences, helping to virtually recreate some of the features of a traditional Open House that schools have canceled in response to the pandemic.

Schools can also offer virtual tours, YouTube videos and run social media sites to help provide students with virtual touss of the school and the chance to meet other incoming students. Helping students gain a better appreciation of life on campus and the safety measures that have been put in place can help students gauge their own level of comfort with the particular school.

Students should evaluate the rules the campus has in place, e.g. strategies for managing potential emergencies or other instances where they need to stop in-person classes and meetings. Make sure that the measures taken at the school and the priorities they express align with the needs of the students.


Carefully evaluate the career options offered through the school

The pandemic has only highlighted the economic uncertainty that many graduating students experience. It has also brought to the forefront how quickly economies can change and jobs can become critically important - or obsolete. Students preparing to enter their college or university need to take this into account and seek educational opportunities that will help them take these changes in stride and pivot as needed.

Azpilicueta says,

“Each year, thousands of students ask me how they can choose the career of a lifetime. And the answer is, don’t choose just one career! You have to choose multiple career options!”

The future of every job sector depends on world events, changes in technology and societal interests. The pandemic clearly demonstrates how quickly changes can arrive. Emerging technological capabilities can also result in rapid changes in the job market, as we have seen with the collapse and emergence of different sectors in recent years.

EHL helps provide students with training that empowers them to successfully navigate different areas within the hospitality industry. Although students emerge highly trained to work in various hotel and tourism sectors, recruiters also seek EHL graduates for their skills and qualifications in alternate fields such as luxury goods, banking, medical or consulting businesses.

The soft skills that students gain during their time at EHL easily translate to other fields, which sets the students up for an excellent future in numerous types of careers. The hospitality and management education makes it easy for them to transition to related fields, empowering them to find their way forward despite rapidly changing conditions.

Switzerland has a reputation for its ‘dual education’ system, placing an emphasis on the importance of practical and academic learning within a single curriculum. Students who graduate from the top schools in the country not only gain skills specifically related to their direct field of study, but they also learn valuable, practical concepts that benefit them in a number of different career paths.

As Azpilicueta explains, “This approach is a huge advantage on our graduates' resumes and allows them to stand out in the job market. At our campus in Passugg particularly, the soft skills program has been developed in parallel to the academic curriculum in past years, ensuring in-depth learning objectives on both fronts. This approach is proving especially relevant today as graduates need to ensure they have access to many different career options.”

Students in the EHL program learn about important skills such as management while also gaining practical experience and customer relationship skills, all of which are sought-after in a variety of sectors and industries. One survey of hiring managers even found that 92 percent saw soft skills as more important than hard skills.


Education with a passion

When students set out to choose their field of study and the school of choice, they of course need to examine objective criteria, such as the quality of the instruction, and the recognition and reputation of the school. They should also look at the size and scope of the alumni network and the accreditation of the school. However, students need to make sure they do not lose sight of the importance of passion for their chosen career or sector.

Azpilicueta puts it this way,

“Aside from all the purely objective choices, I advise students to always keep room to follow their heart and choose a course that they are passionate about.”

Students should seek fields of study that align with their interests and talents. The school that they choose will likely be their home for the next several years, and the connections they make during their time of study will form the basis of their network when they begin to look for a job. Finding a program that inspires interest and passion can help students thrive both while and school and in their chosen career field.

Completing a rigorous program requires lots of work and time spent deep in study. Students who choose wisely the subjects and schools that spark their passion will find the programs more fulfilling and empowering.

Choosing a school for higher education and selecting a field of study that will impact your future career options will always feel challenging and stressful. Trying to make that decision in the midst of a global pandemic only amplifies the already exisiting obstacles. By carefully thinking through the options and evaluating each school based on criteria influenced by the societal changes seen in response to COVID-19, students can make the decision that fits them best. Consider the advice offered by EHL’s Azpilicueta above and use it to help guide your selection. Then, move forward, confident that you have made the right decision for your dreams and goals.

Written by

Admissions Director at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne

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