The coronavirus is bringing waves of changes to how we approach everyday tasks and traditions. The same will be true for college admissions.
While colleges have been hyper-focused on implementing effective distance learning options for enrolled students, they also need to figure out how to handle admissions for those still deciding about if or where to attend. The good news is this otherwise difficult situation may present opportunities for students.
Student may have more time to decide
Traditionally, colleges send out decisions of acceptance in late winter/early Spring. They expect an answer by May 1st so that they may quickly backfill declined acceptance from their waitlisted students. Given the current environment, many colleges are extending the response deadline by a month. In addition, the financial impact of the Coronavirus may compel more students and families to choose a more financially attractive college rather than move forward with their first choice.
Financial aid could change
Given that students from all backgrounds may be compelled to choose lower cost options, colleges are going to have to start offering more competitive aid packages to maintain their enrollment and candidate standards. Recruitment for top notch students, in general, may also feel more aggressive than ever before.
In addition, families will likely qualify for more than they otherwise would have. Due to Corona-related unemployment and sickness, families applying for financial aid will be better able to illustrate need-based aid. Before you commit, keep in mind that you apply for aid each year. Just because you qualify initially due to Corona-related hardship, you may not in the coming years. Make sure to inquire what aid may look like in a more normal year.
What about students who will start applying this coming year? Tours, admission interviews, campus events, and college fairs are a huge part of the decision making process. One-on-one interviews will likely take place through phone calls and web conferencing during quarantine and into the coming year. Colleges will also be creating very professional and appealing virtual tours that can easily be accessed from their websites. Most college fairs have already been canceled, however, there are no shortages of resources. Consider something like The Princeton Review to help you quickly narrow down options.
Lastly, I envision schools heavily relying on web-conferencing, YouTube, and social media platforms to host live Q&A sessions and to get their messages across. My Alma mater, Bentley University, has already leveraged technology to help them abide by social distancing guidelines. Given the time and investment put into an overhaul like this, I don’t expect this new way of completing due diligence to disappear anytime soon.
Some of these virtual experiences may feel like a poor alternative to the thrill of stepping on campus for the first time, but consider the money (and time!) you’ll save that can be allocated toward tuition instead.
Don’t be surprised if colleges use the upcoming school year as a way to pilot new application requirements and process. One that may have everyone rejoicing is evaluating the importance of standardized tests scores. Colleges across the nation have already announced “test optional” policies for prospective students.
I’d also be willing to guess a popular essay question will be on how students handled quarantine. Bonus points to those who helped safeguard the community (ie – mask making, delivering food to the elderly).