College and COVID: What You Need to Know
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought serious disruptions, many of which have affected colleges and their admissions offices. The uncertainty from these changes can be stress-inducing. Over the last few weeks, we’re received questions from our families asking how the pandemic will affect college applications.
Understanding these concerns, Jackie and I reached out to several colleges to seek answers on what is changing. Here are some of the changes we’ve heard:
National Decision Day Extended
National College Decision Day is the deadline for high school students to accept offers of enrollment and make a deposit to attend a four-year college or university. Traditionally, National Decision Day is May 1.
This year, over half of colleges have extended their decision day to June 1 because of the pandemic. Informally, some colleges told us they are willing to extend the deadline further for students who contact the admissions office directly.
Changes to Financial Aid Packages
Colleges realize that the pandemic has had serious economic effects and are trying to offer the support that they can through financial aid.
If you are a high school senior and have been severely impacted financially by the pandemic, it is possible to contact the financial aid office and have your financial aid package reviewed. Many of the colleges we spoke to said they had a form on their website where you can submit this request.
Standardized Test-Optional & Test-Flexible
Recently, there’s been a shift to test-optional applications—college applications where it is not mandatory for students to submit their SAT or ACT scores. We’ve also heard of growing numbers of test-flexible applications, applications which do not require tests for general admissions but require standardized tests to get into specific programs within the college.
Students who submit test scores should remember that test-optional does not mean test blind. Any scores you submit will be weighed with other parts of your application. As such, we strongly encourage students to continue to prepare to take the ACT or SAT. Our goal is to not just get students into colleges but also help them qualify for higher scholarships.
Virtual College Campus Experiences
Since on-campus visits have stopped, many colleges have switched to virtual tours, information sessions, and orientations. We do not believe virtual tours will replace on-campus visits when current restrictions end. These visits show where students will live and study for four years. As we know from working with numerous families, the best way to know a campus fits the student is to visit it.
Regardless, these virtual experiences won’t go away soon. We expect these virtual experiences to become more sophisticated as colleges become more comfortable with technology. While not ideal, virtual tours can still help students get a “feel” for a college, especially when weighing options. Colleges realize these virtual experiences allow those unable to visit to look at the campus before making the time and money commitment to visit.
We have also been told virtual appointments are also becoming more popular. You can often also “meet” with someone in admissions or financial aid without stepping foot on the campus.
Changes to the Common App
The Common Application (also known as the Common App) is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants can use to apply to any of more than 800 colleges and universities. It is a great resource for most applications.
On the 2020–2021 application, the Common App will provide applicants the chance to elaborate on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on them. According to its official site, “the essay will appear in the Additional Information section of the application and the length will be limited to 250 words.”
In short, colleges know that navigating the college process is tough, now more than ever. Between deadlines and now with the recent changes due to COVID-19, the experience can be stressful for the whole family. As independent college advisors, we guide students every step of the way, giving families the confidence and assurance they need to get into the best college at the lowest price. Please go to our website to register for a FREE college planning consultation.
We first met Sarah Hood as one of our Monday Meet a Mom’s back in August 2019. Learn more about this inspirational mom who overcame a heart attack at 23 years old, had 2 kids, and how she finds time to take care of herself (and you should too!)!!
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