Selecting a College in a Pandemic

Selecting a College in a Pandemic

The Class of 2020 was the first to run into the challenge of having to decide their future college experience without the opportunity to see campus again, or for many, for the first time. Even more students in the Class of 2021 have not had the opportunity to visit the campuses they have chosen to apply to and may not be able to do so before they have to make their final decision on May 1. With these additional challenges considered, how can seniors make the best decision for themselves? Below, you’ll find the key components students and families should evaluate before making their final decision on a college for next year.

Financial Feasibility. First and foremost, make sure you understand how much each college will cost your family for next year – and the following three! Whether you’ve applied for financial aid, received scholarships, are paying out-of-pocket, or some combination, this step is critical for long-term planning and the overall financial health of your family. If you have applied for financial aid – be sure you understand what is presented in your package and review it with your counselor to receive the appropriate recommendations in regards to loans, net costs and appeals. Compare packages and costs, and speak to the Financial Aid Office if necessary.

COVID policies. Many colleges and universities have already started announcing requirements for COVID vaccinations before students can come to campus. Luckily, vaccinations are readily available in most states, but be sure to review all of the information provided by each college to ensure that you will meet the health requirements by the deadline provided.

Location. Given the continued impact of the pandemic and vaccination rollout, you may want to consider how individual states, counties and cities are handling public health. Consider the impact of travel for your student and the resources available to them should they need assistance.

Campus Facilities. The college you choose will be your home for the next four years, so make sure to investigate where and how you will live on each campus. If a visit is not possible, use the virtual campus tour for an idea and speak to an admissions representative with questions.

Speak to a Current Student. The best way to get insider information is to speak to a student who already attends the university you are considering. In this year’s case, an older student who has spent more time on campus is a better route because of many campus closures during the pandemic. You can use your personal network, your high school may be able to help connect you with graduates who attend that college, and you can also ask the Admission Office to connect you to a current student. Ask them questions about housing, student life and more nuanced things like course registration.

Next Steps:

Deposit. Once you’ve made your final decision, you must make a deposit to that school to hold your place by May 1. Remember: If you are remaining on a waitlist for a college, you must still deposit elsewhere by this deadline. If you are admitted from the waitlist, you will forfeit this first deposit. 

Housing. Some colleges may also require you to submit a housing deposit on or around the same time as your enrollment deposit. For others, housing will take place later in the spring or summer. Be sure to complete any questionnaire requested by your college as fully and honestly as possible in order to get the most appropriate room and/or roommate assignment.

Orientation. Colleges will start sending you and your parents information about orientations for new students, and sometimes for new parents too. Be sure to attend as you will gain valuable information about your next steps for academic registration and housing, as well as how to use the variety of resources your campus provides.

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