College Admissions & Coronavirus: What’s Changing This Year

With hundreds of college campuses closed due to COVID-19, high school seniors and their families are wondering how to make a decision about where to attend when they can’t come by in person. Or if they can even afford college if their family’s finances suddenly change.

Colleges, meanwhile, are scrambling to help enrolled students adjust to online learning while addressing the concerns of prospective students. Additionally, a new rule change coming into effect this spring — unrelated to the novel coronavirus — could lengthen the college decision-making process for families.

In short, we are in stressful, uncharted territory. This is what families of seniors should know.

Deferred deadlines for deciding where to enroll

In the past, the college decision deadline was May 1, but this spring, with COVID-19 closing campuses, some colleges have extended theirs to June 1 or beyond to give families time to reconcile to regroup. Some will meet a May 1 deadline, but many could extend their deadline in the coming weeks, experts say. It’s going to be a smooth time.

Don’t be afraid to ask for an extension if a college hasn’t changed its deadline, says Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admissions at Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of The truth about college admissions. Admissions directors say families can expect a greater degree of flexibility from colleges during this unprecedented time.

“I see colleges tripping over themselves and trying to cut red tape wherever they can, and that’s what they should be doing,” said David Burge, vice president of enrollment management at George Mason University.

Schools discourage “duplicate deposits,” but with different deadlines, it’s possible your family will need to submit deposits to two different schools — one with a May 1 deadline and one with a June 1 deadline — to ensure that you have enough time to decide. However, Burge suggests asking for a May Day extension of the school first and explaining your circumstances.

Changes to when colleges can reach students

Traditionally, colleges made it a practice not to market students after the family made a down payment at another school. But last fall, the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) overturned the policy after the Justice Department said it violated antitrust rules. That means colleges are free to reach out to their students well past decision days and even into the fall, regardless of COVID-19.

It is possible that students may receive a better financial aid package from another school after committing to their first choice. But don’t expect that from public universities or private schools, which have 100 percent coverage, Clark says. “I think where you might see that is in medium-sized private schools. You could see that some repackaging was taking place.”

College experts also predict more students will end up on waiting lists this year as COVID-19 makes student attendance less predictable. Combined with extended deadlines, family decision-making could come much later this summer, even well into July, compressing the timeline between decision and start time. But that also means unexpected opportunities could open up, like being removed from a waiting list at a desired school or receiving a better financial package, Clark says. “Families should be patient and keep an open mind as far as they feel more comfortable in the summer,” he says. (Of course, there is no guarantee of being removed from a waiting list, so be prepared to make a deposit at a school where your student has been accepted.)

For some, this extended schedule might be difficult when students are ready to graduate. Elizabeth Heaton, Vice President of Bright Horizons college coachesShe encourages families to start talking now about how they will make a decision. “Would you like to continue considering offers after the May or June 1st deadline? Is there a date you have to be finished by? Is there a group of schools that you would be open to entertainment from but not others?” she says. She suggests that families be open about money when discussing what colleges will cost.

Guided tours without setting foot on campus

Colleges introduce hosting tools virtual admission days, virtual campus tours, video series and webcasts. Georgia Tech, for example, recently a GT YouTube channel for admission, where prospective students can find out more about topics such as studying business administration or attending football games in the fall.

Of course, there is no way to personally replace the experience of a tour or day for admitted students, but you can still look for a personalized experience in this new reality. “It can boil down to something as simple as an email exchange or a video conference,” says Burge. “And if a campus doesn’t offer good one-on-one mentoring, that could be a good indicator of whether it’s right for you.”

Colleges are also flexible in terms of test scores and final grades of the semester. Ask for the policies of your proposed school. Many have already opted for an optional trial policy, and this spring’s pandemic is driving more to do the same. Some colleges are planning to leave Examination optionally over several years or permanently.

Heaton recommends using social media channels and anything else the campus has to offer, such as: B. a local meeting on Google Hangout. Also, consider reaching out to current or former students at a college to ask what it’s like going there.

Update of grant awards

The federal tax deadline has expired extended until July 15, but the extension will not change your FAFSA, which is based on your 2018 tax return. However, families whose income or wealth has recently decreased should contact their students’ schools to submit a change of circumstances and request a recalculation of Financial Aid. Be prepared to provide documentation on how your finances have changed. Aid policies and opportunities vary from school to school, and since many students are likely to be in the same boat, there is no guarantee a school can offer more. But you should try, says Heaton. The worst thing colleges can say is no.

The bottom line is that families should speak up for themselves as openly and directly as possible. Pick up the phone and call the registry office or registration office and tell them what you need, experts say. In a possible silver lining, colleges say they’re trying to be more transparent and student-friendly than ever.

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