Coronavirus and College
If you parent a high school or college student or you are a high school or college student, you are probably wondering how the coronavirus might impact your college admissions decisions and college life. Here’s a quick list of the things that may be impacted and how you want to address them.
Coronavirus and College: Five Things to Look Out For
Taking the SAT: You may have already heard from the College Board about a relocation plan. That’s great! Don’t increase your test anxiety by worrying about who has what at the test center.
The one thing you might want to be concerned about is what might happen if your test is completely canceled and you have to take it in the summer, or worse, in the fall. We operate from the knowledge that spring of the 11th grade is the optimal time to take the SAT. You aren’t dealing with summer loss or application stress, and you have the most content knowledge. If you can’t take the SAT in the spring and you’re in the 11th grade, best to think about other ways to demonstrate your academic preparedness outside of the test. You should be doing that anyway. :)
School is Closed: Don’t consider this an early spring break! Regardless of how your school decides to handle homework and grading, this is not a time to slack. High school students: if you’re worried about getting behind on content, work with a tutor (we can help!) or look into online community college options for spring or summer term to supplement. On your college applications, you’ll be able to easily explain a school closure or disruption on your transcript since this is outside of your control. As with the SAT, you’ll still need to demonstrate your academic readiness for college in other ways.
Closing schools has a wider impact outside of academics. Many young students are dependent on school breakfast and lunch. Parents are dependent on school for childcare. A crisis like this brings existing equity issues to the surface, and we need to be sure that our responses aren’t deepening those inequities.
For college students, especially those living on campus, this is understandably a big concern. If your college closes and you are asked to leave, they most likely will continue to offer classes virtually. It is their responsibility to ensure that you have reliable access to the technology you need to continue your learning. Talk with your faculty or someone from the Dean of Students office if this will be a barrier for you. You might be worried about losing your on campus job. Federal Work Study is a crucial source of income and financial aid for many students. Federal guidelines released by the Department of Education allow institutions to continue paying students Federal Work Study wages during campus closures due to COVID-19. Confirm your options with your supervisor.
If your campus is still open, start talking with family and college advisors now about your plans if there is a closure. Will you need assistance with travel costs or with finding a secure place to stay temporarily? Can you petition to stay in the residence halls if leaving is not a safe option? If you’re prescribed medications through the campus health center, can you request a three month supply now in case you’re in a new location? Have honest conversations about what family obligations will look like if you’re back home and continuing online classes, so that you can stay focused on your academics.
College Visits: Despite all of the headlines, the percentage of colleges closing is low. Schools are already working on contingency plans, and many are offering virtual tours and preview days. You can expect fewer college rep visits to high schools, as many schools are restricting travel for employees.
If you’re in the 11th grade or younger, our approach is that college visits are less about the specific school and more about comparing different types of schools. The goal is to understand the classroom experience, social environment, internship and research opportunities, and support resources such as cultural centers, tutoring, student organizations, and mental health support. Once you get a feel for the difference between a large public research institution versus a small liberal arts college, you’ll be able to make better comparisons between colleges on your list.
For 12th graders who have been admitted, this is a little trickier. Pay attention to the travel and health advisories for specific cities and, of course, make the safest choice for you and your family. Keep in mind that college visits are not essential. Yes, browsing a website is not the same as walking through a beautiful tree-lined quad, but you can determine a lot about financial, academic, and social fit based on information available online, admissions interviews, and virtual events. If you can’t visit one of your top choices, ask for an interview with a current student. This will give you some of the inside perspective you would have heard from student tour guides during an official visit.
International Admissions: Given travel restrictions and country-specific quarantines, there’s a lot of uncertainty for international students studying in the U.S. and students from U.S. institutions who are currently studying abroad. At this point, we are not aware of schools limiting new enrollment from specific countries because of coronavirus. If you are an international student and your school closes, clarify what this means for your student visa. Are you required to return to your home country? If so, is the school providing financial assistance for your travel costs? It is the institution’s responsibility to have a clear plan in place. Some schools are allowing students to petition to stay on campus if they do not have the ability to leave.
Many schools are cancelling study abroad programs, particularly in countries like Italy and China, and are sending students back to their home countries. Again, if you’re in this situation, ask about how the school is managing your academic credits. Will they issue final grades based on your completed work so far? You’ve already put in the effort and paid tuition for the term, so you do not want to miss out on those credits.
Racism and Coronavirus: We shouldn’t have to state this but, sadly, it’s a thing. Don’t use coronavirus as an excuse to be xenophobic and racist. Seriously.
Schools and colleges are facing difficult choices about how to keep their communities safe while causing the least amount of disruption to student learning. Pay attention to how schools are managing this crisis. Their response will tell you a lot about their readiness to utilize technology and adapt for online learning, their emergency preparedness, and how they’re prioritizing marginalized students in the midst of all of this. Are they addressing bias incidents and microaggressions? Do they have support plans for students who would face housing or food insecurity if school closed? How are they managing financial aid adjustments or refunds to students for cancelled classes or closed residence halls?
So while it may seem like just utter madness, it’s a great opportunity to see what schools are really all about.
Best of luck!
This originally appeared on the VHC blog. Read more here.
Dayspring Mattole co-author