Under normal circumstances, the college admission process is most dynamic during the month of April. In years past, colleges and universities would have revealed their admission decisions by April 1. Scholarships would have been announced and need-based financial aid awarded. Students would be revisiting their college lists, assessing priorities and making plans for one last tour of the college to which they had been admitted.
And, in normal times, admission offices would be preparing to engage eager high school Juniors as they ready themselves to embrace the college search and selection processes.
These are obviously not normal times, however. Faced with social distancing edicts and stay-at-home orders, college personnel and families alike now must struggle with an unprecedented disconnect regarding a most cherished life opportunity, that of pursuing a college education. The opaqueness normally associated with the college admission process by consumers is now exacerbated almost exponentially.
The Scoir Response
In order to shed some light on the situation, I am working with Scoir to provide a "behind the scenes" look at how colleges are dealing with the admission process during a national crisis to offer advice to families with regard to how you might move forward in uncertain times. In addition to this message, I will be interviewing deans of admission at institutions around the country in the coming days. These interviews should lend further perspective on how specific colleges—and higher education in general—are responding to the coronavirus.
To date, the webinar series: "Inside College Admission" features interviews with deans of admission at the following institutions:
To listen to these interviews, following the link below. Make sure to bookmark this link or keep checking back, because we have more interviews to come!
The Situation on College Campuses
It would appear that college and university campuses are operating with a skeleton staff if they are not empty altogether. Working remotely, the first priority is to make alternative provisions for completing the Spring semester and many have scrambled to produce online instruction to do so. Graduations have been postponed if not canceled.
Most colleges operate on fiscal years that run from July 1 through June 30 in which case those schools are fiscally solvent through the end of June based on revenues - tuition and otherwise - generated since July 1, 2019. The next fiscal year, however, hangs in the balance for many as it depends on the tuition revenue produced by the students making enrollment decisions in April.
While admission decisions have been released to applicants in a timely manner, the normal pattern of enrollment activity has been rendered useless to colleges in 2020. Campus open houses, regional acceptance parties and other in-person activities that would normally take place during the coming weeks have been shelved in favor of virtual activity (webinars, chatrooms, etc.) and digital communication. The stakes are high for institutions that must suddenly function without the benefit of their traditional enrollment models. Needless to say, available institutional resources are being committed, more than usual, to matters directly at hand.
Advice for Seniors Making the Final Choice of College
- Take advantage of virtual campus visits and activities for admitted students
- Contact the financial aid offices with any documentation of changes in your family’s financial circumstances. Do this sooner than later.
- Keep the contact information (email is best) for the admission personnel who recruit in your area handy. Use them as primary resources when confronted with questions.
- Focus on your priorities in making your decision. In the absence of campus visits and direct conversations, it will be tempting to fall back on reputational aspects of institutions. Instead, make this about you. What do you want to accomplish and how can you best achieve your goals? Choose the college that makes the most sense to you!
Juniors: Your Time is Coming!
While activity in the world has slowed considerably, we should remain optimistic that the “clouds” will part in time for high schools and colleges to open on schedule this Fall. And, as a rising high school senior, I suspect the college process is becoming real to your family as well!
You are likely to see an uptick in the outreach from colleges directed at you by early June. Even so, it’s not likely that many campuses will open right away. As a result, try to accomplish as much college research online as possible during the coming months. Stay away from independent chatrooms (they tend to be heavy on rumors and unfounded opinion) and focus more on institutional websites where you’ll find virtual tours, webinars, and updates related to campus accessibility.
Application Process Tips for Juniors
This is also a good time to begin organizing yourself to officially become a college applicant!
- Approach two teachers for letters of recommendation. One should be a teacher who can comment on your communication skills, oral and written, and the other should be from a teacher who can assess your developing skillset related to your intended area of study.
- Continue to prepare for any necessary testing. Don’t overdo formal test prep. Perusing practice tests and reading, a lot(!), will be just as helpful. While the SAT/ACT have canceled testing in May, it is hoped that testing will resume later this summer.
- Consider summer activities for self-enrichment rather than credential building. Admission officers will be most impressed by the authenticity of your choices.
- If/when college campuses open, plan visits where possible. If interviews with admission staff are offered, take them!
- Preview college application requirements on the Common Application and/or Coalition Application websites as well as the institutions’ websites. Be alert to any announced modifications to admission requirements.
- Begin the essay development process. Done well, this process could proceed incrementally throughout the summer. The objective should be to have strong drafts of the main college essay, as well as any supplemental essays required by specific colleges, ready by the start of school in the Fall.
- Find out the name and contact information for the admission personnel at the colleges of interest who recruit at your high school. Let them become the expert resources as you move forward.