COVID-19 Testing for College Students: Avoid the Spread

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way we all live. Our sense of normalcy has been completely altered. For college students hoping to experience life on campus, the changes have been significant.

Classroom experiences, interactions with friends and peers, living (and quarantining) in a dormitory. Each of these has taken on a new meaning and image of campus life amid a global pandemic.

Read on to learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on college students including the symptoms, ways to avoid it, and the COVID testing and vaccination options available.

COVID-19 and College Students

Higher education across the country has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students, faculty, and staff have not been immune to the pandemic. On the contrary, outbreaks have run rampant on campus communities.

Infection Rate on College Campuses

A year later, COVID-19 continues to spread and upend life on campuses across the country. According to the New York Times, over 660,000 coronavirus cases have been linked to colleges and universities since the beginning of the pandemic.

College campuses have shown potential as superspreaders. According to a study of 30 select campuses, in just the first two weeks of classes last fall, over half of the campuses studied had more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people

To put this in perspective, a rate of 50 cases per 100,000 is the threshold for high-risk areas. 

How to Avoid COVID-19 on College Campuses

Despite the number of cases found by the study, there are limitations to the study results. Because many campuses instituted remote learning and lockdowns, the true numbers of students living on campus were unreported and had to be approximated for the study.

This could underestimate the maximum potential for on-campus virus exposure.

Living in Close Quarters

Many incoming students dream of life on campus, student gatherings, and living in a dorm. However, this study and others have pointed to off-campus student events and crowded dormitories as leading causes of the outbreaks across college campuses. 

On and off-campus events, college classrooms, and dorms are not typically set up for social distancing. Germs spread quickly and easily. As a result, college campuses are vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases, not just COVID-19.


To curb the spread of the virus, students need to be aware of the signs and dangers of the virus. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 among adults include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Stomach issues including nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Slow the Spread

The standard CDC precautions for slowing the spread of COVID and protecting student health hold true on college campuses. 

  • Wear a mask or facial covering.
  • Maintain social distancing.
  • Avoid large group activities.
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer.
  • Choose safer activities such as those with smaller numbers of people or activities held outside.

While living in close quarters with large numbers of people can make this more difficult, the situation warrants the importance of adhering to the recommendations.

COVID-19 Testing

Students, faculty, and staff who have been exposed or who experience coronavirus symptoms should be tested for COVID-19.

Campus Testing Protocols

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 on campuses, the CDC has developed protocols for testing

Anyone who shows symptoms of COVID-19 should be separated, masked, and sent home or to a separate facility to isolate themselves from others. This is true regardless of vaccination status. Individuals should be tested and positive results submitted to the department of health for contact tracing. 

Close contacts of infected students, faculty, and staff should quarantine and be tested immediately. If the results are negative, they should be retested 5-7 days after exposure to the infected person.

Moving forward, the CDC recommends entry testing programs for on and off-campus students, faculty, and staff at the start of each term. Individuals should quarantine while awaiting results. In areas of increased transmission rates, weekly or twice weekly testing is recommended if the testing capacity exists.

Tests Available

COVID testing is performed through diagnostic tests for active COVID-19 infections and antibody tests to show a history of infection. Each has a different testing method, processing time for results, and accuracy level.

  • Rapid Antigen Test – This test checks for an active infection through a nasal or throat swab. Test results are available in approximately 10 minutes. False negatives are possible so this should be used in patients who are showing symptoms.
  • RT-LAMP and RT-PCR Tests – These molecular tests are used to diagnose active infections. RT-LAMP results are available within 24 hours. RT-PCR results may take up to 72 hours to process.
  • Rapid Antibody Tests – Performed through a finger prick, antibody tests check for previous infections. 

At this time, Carolina Pharmacy offers diagnostic COVID-19 testing at multiple pharmacy locations in the greater Charlotte area. We only offer Rapid Antibody Testing at the Arboretum location. For Rapid Antibody Testing in Arboretum, please call 704-909-4700 ext 0 for more info or you may walk in for an appointment. 

COVID-19 Vaccines

In addition to COVID-19 testing, vaccines are now available to adults ages 16 and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two separate injections performed 3 to 4 weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is one shot. 

All three vaccines are FDA approved to prevent COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and reduce the risk of severe illness.

Some colleges and universities may require the COVID vaccine for the fall semester. As the list continues to change, check here to see if your school requires the vaccine.

COVID Testing and Vaccines at Carolina Pharmacy

Carolina Pharmacy offers COVID-19 testing in Charlotte, Greenville, Rock Hill, and Lancaster. Additionally, we now offer COVID-19 vaccines in Charlotte, Lancaster, and Rock Hill.

Contact Carolina Pharmacy today for more information on COVID-19 testing for college students

Schedule your COVID-19 test today!