The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the college admissions landscape, and applying to college this fall is unlike any other year in history. To help ease your mind during the process, we've put together weekly summaries of higher education news in light of the pandemic — broken down in the feed below — followed by specific resources that can help you navigate the admissions journey.
With Thanksgiving week upon us, students are hitting the road for the holiday, and many won't be returning to campuses until after the New Year begins since the threat of spreading the COVID-19 virus is too high. Meanwhile, current high school seniors are continuing to submit applications, with many still wondering whether to send test scores to colleges amid the test-optional policies that so many schools have adopted. Although the uncertainty is still rampant across all levels of the higher education spectrum, it's a good time for families to take a short break and express gratitude during this holiday season. We wish all of our readers an amazing Thanksgiving!
Many students who are currently on college campuses are packing up their dorms in anticipation of Thanksgiving break, when some institutions have decided to shift to remote learning. Those who aren't yet in college are viewing the conditions at colleges that the pandemic prompted and some are hesitant to apply. In fact, a recent study indicates that 47 percent of high school seniors haven't yet started their college applications, some of which are due to the uncertainty going on right now. The pandemic has also brought virtual degrees into the spotlight, as some students realize that they are facing benefits from remote learning and aren't interested in heading to a college campus.
COVID-19 is continuing to spread, with numbers hitting new highs in the past week. Some students are having to make the difficult choice of whether to go home for Thanksgiving at all or whether to stay on a quiet campus so they can finish out the fall semester at school. Other campuses are planning to shut down completely at Thanksgiving, closing out the fall semester early or asking students to finish the semester at home. Meanwhile, high school seniors are finalizing their college essays, deciding whether to apply test-optional and working to hit deadlines, all while aiming to achieve good grades in their virtual learning and hybrid education models.
Most Early Action and Early Decision deadlines have passed, and students are continuing to finalize their applications, despite not being able to visit most campuses due to the pandemic. Some students are preparing for alumni interviews, which are largely taking place over Zoom and other audiovisual telecommunication methods. Others are following through with college applications while planning to defer their freshman year in light of the pandemic. Even internships have transitioned to a virtual format, but many are still happening despite the spread of COVID-19.
Students are continuing to write their essays in preparation for submitting college applications, and several big deadlines are quickly approaching. Even as application season is in full swing, students are also having to decide whether to register for AP exams, which will be given this spring. The decision is a bit more challenging in light of the pandemic, as some students won't even start select AP courses until January, so they don't know at this point whether they'll want to take the test at all when it arrives in late spring. On top of these struggles are the standard health-related issues that are impacting everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some families have opted to stay in and catch up on movies during this period of social distancing, while others are keeping a close eye on the data to stay safe.
Many students have submitted their first applications, but most are still writing essays and prepping for college interviews as the fall application cycle heats up. Students are also finalizing their college lists and confirming whether they plan to apply Early Decision anywhere or not. All of this is in light of the fact that many students are still hoping to take the SAT or ACT, and some are driving across state lines just to get the opportunity. Although most colleges have adopted test-optional policies, that hasn't been the case across the board. Notably, Florida public universities are still requiring students to submit test scores, while some families are wondering whether test-optional policies will impact merit aid decisions.
As students complete their college applications and look toward the future, the pandemic continues to loom over their choices. Many students are reviewing various ranking lists to help them make their decisions about which colleges to attend, while others are finishing their college lists and working on essays. However, this year's applicants aren't the only ones facing setbacks due to the pandemic. Some students who finished high school in the spring found that their college choices changed dramatically because of the pandemic, and ended up at schools that weren't high on their lists for a variety of reasons. As for current college students and graduates, many are saving money due to the break they got in paying federal student loans, a deal from the government that currently lasts through the end of 2020.
So many students' experiences on campus have been impacted by the pandemic, and that goes far beyond the more obvious effects and into funding as well. Some families bought tuition insurance to offset losses, but are finding that COVID-19 costs are excluded from their policies. Meanwhile, college application deadlines are approaching, but many students are concerned about how to make a firm choice about which school to attend due to the pandemic. Making a college decision is challenging in any period, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, students aren't able to tour campuses and many haven't been able to take the SAT or ACT. In addition, athletes are finding that recruiting has been down due to the pandemic, and may not have the options they thought they might.
Although many students have expressed stress over the fact that SAT and ACT sittings keep getting canceled, colleges have responded by largely shifting to a test-optional format. But some students still want to take these tests, so they have hit the road to take them in other states. Even those who have had an opportunity to take the SAT and ACT are facing roadblocks when encountering issues like last-minute site closures and scoring delays. As students determine whether to apply with test scores or not, they're finalizing their college lists by performing virtual tours of college campuses, since many in-person tours aren't possible. Meanwhile, current college students are still dealing with campus-wide issues caused by COVID-19, with some schools faring better than others in terms of outbreaks.
As more colleges move deeper into the school year, some are showing triumphs where others are struggling to keep up with the COVID-19 virus' spread. For example, Brown University appears to be successful in its attempt to curb the spread, as is Amherst, which has deployed a COVID "bubble" to help in its efforts. Overall, it appears that students are adjusting to the "new normal" on campuses, with many students working to keep up with the requirements so they can stay healthy and continue in-person learning. Meanwhile, current high school seniors who are filling out college applications are wondering whether they should write COVID-specific essays in the space provided on the Common and Coalition applications. Students who have experienced true hardships during the pandemic should complete this section, one expert advises, while other applicants can simply leave it blank.
High school seniors are finalizing their college lists just as the latest annual update of the U.S. News college rankings debuted, listing Princeton first on its "Best Colleges" roster this year. As students from the class of 2021 continue working on applications, many are trying to determine whether to take (or retake) the SAT/ACT this fall, which in many cases has not been an easy task due to the pandemic. High school students who are hoping to be recruited by a college sports team are facing additional, unexpected challenges due to the pandemic, with many wondering exactly how the recruiting process will happen in the absence of many high school sports seasons. As for those students already on campus, sports are once again taking center stage in many discussions, as colleges are losing money by cutting or diminishing their football seasons. For those students who aren't as concerned about sports, many are simply wondering how they can meet other students on today's campuses, which are facing a different reality than in the past.
As college students settle into dorm life, many campuses are finding that COVID-19 is spreading faster than expected. This is not only taking a toll on the health of students, teachers and administrators, but also on colleges' finances. In fact, the American Council on Education is projecting that it will cost upwards of $120 billion for colleges to safely reopen. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has estimated its economic impact due to the pandemic at over $100 million, and many other colleges are reporting similar figures. As the higher education industry navigates these issues, one very important topic is the mental health of students. Managing a new learning landscape, upheaval to finances and the stress of staying healthy is taking a toll on many students, who are struggling to adapt.
If you're new to online learning, check out this video for tips on how to navigate this new setting.
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It's important to ensure that you manage your mental well-being during stressful periods. Check these tips to help stay centered during this challenging time.
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/403144655/beae6c2da8 expand=1]
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