How to Pick a College During Coronavirus

Future students usually are extremely busy in spring. Except for being a great time, when everything around is getting beautiful and blooming, this season is when high school learners are thinking about their future education as well. It is time for applicants to receive letters of admission, think about monetary aid, and finally choose the career path. There are always many things to do, but we all see that this spring differs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

S. M. Meraji, a host of NPR’s Code Switch podcast, talks with E. Nadworny, an NPR Education reporter and Life Kit host, about some burning issues that have arisen because of the COVID-19. Students are worried about their future education, and answers to these questions will shed some light on the quarantine situation.

When will students hopefully receive a response from universities about enrollment for this season?

Luckily, it is a process that has not changed a lot due to quarantine. Most institutions have been on the way – typically in March and early April – to accepting or rejecting students. Indeed, many institutions have already announced their decisions as they can use rolling admissions. Therefore, students could know about this already in the middle of winter.

M. Bingham, founder and co-leader of the nonprofit ACCEPT, which works with admission committees to keep things fair for everyone, mentions that there are no announcements about colleges postponing making their choices or monetary aid, but they are trying to ensure everything is going the right way.

The crisis is real. It is already causing financial damage to families throughout the whole country. Is it possible to apply for additional monetary aid if required?

Of course, it is possible. To be honest, this also occurs in ordinary years, not only in 2020. You can apply for an increase in your aid in case something has changed in your condition. At the institution where you are already enrolled and which provides you with a monetary aid package, you may submit for an increase in case something has happened to your family member, for example, if someone has lost the job. You should contact the institution and inform them about this. Some colleges have forms on their websites for changing monetary aid. If no, you may write an email or call them.

I suppose this is a perfect occasion to begin discussing these points with family members. Sometimes it is quite difficult to discuss finances, but it is not a good idea to wait until the right moment. Now they are aware that institutions must be adaptable.

Imagine you discover which schools have enrolled you. So what is the condition of monetary aid? The attempt to weigh up various options is already challenging, even in a normal situation, in a usual year. What is the difference now when everything is online? Are there virtual sources to help?

Yes, they actually exist. There are many websites to help you decipher tangled college aid letters. We have tools on our site. You may download them. Other schools have things that can help too. You have to realize that each institution sends its own letters, and they do their own counting. These materials may contain loans, as well. Do not forget that each college has a different price for studying, and you cannot contrast them just by the amount of money that might be offered. You should be very accurate with it. Do not hurry up, and try not to be puzzled by a significant sum of money. It is also an excellent chance to analyze means with your consultants. S. Mitchell, a guidance counselor in D.C. who helps students who are preparing for studying, is trying to make the things clear. Now he is assisting learners via the Internet to evaluate financial aid letters. Once, he communicated with a student who received a letter about the award of financial aid, so he just put it on his screen. This way, he showed the screen and scrolled through it, explaining all the necessary things, and it was the same as being present in the building.

Normally, students receive decisions before May 1. Is there a change in terms?

Yes, there are differences in deadlines because of the pandemic. Many universities are prolonging these terms until June 1. About 300 schools have been adjusted to a new date, providing families with the chance to understand what is happening and reduce their anxiety.

Has the quarantine caused students to think differently about going far for studying?

I guess many people are thinking of it. M. Lamison, a high schooler in Tampa, Florida, was preparing to leave the state for studying. However, the quarantine due to the COVID-19 began. Her mother is very anxious because May is going too far, and something may happen. She mentions that in case she does not get financial aid or info from many of these institutions that she truly wanted to enter, she will probably just spend her first term or her four years at her local institution.

Everyone is also concerned about what universities were doing with their present students last month. How did they find a solution to the situation? Did they let them stay? What are they planning to do to support their present students? Did they refund tuition fees? And yes, I am also of the opinion that learners may change their minds, so I think it has a big impact on how they feel about their decision and where they are going to go the following year.

What about students who did not have the opportunity to attend the colleges they had applied to? Can they submit? Are there any virtual sources for this?

Unfortunately, most schools are not allowed to go to, so there is no possibility to visit them. They offer college activities, field trips, information gatherings, familiarization events, admitted student days, but they transferred all of them online. Many people make choices according to the emotion or the feeling they experience while visiting, so this part is crucial to them.

I spoke to a student from Austin, X. Christou. He intended to spend the season on the universities to which he was admitted. He states that virtual campuses are just titles, logos, and programs and that nothing beats being in the university building and communicating with current students. However, institutions are attempting very much, and admissions tutors are inventive. They practice online journeys and provide applicants with the opportunity to get their online education experience.

The University of Virginia had all of its campus guides make TikToks.

Bingham tells that colleges have increased the number of their videos and provided learners with access to chat. It is one of the central goals of admission committees right now. They are working very actively to be assured that even if students cannot come, they can still get an idea of communication and presence. This difference can make things fairer. Personal university visits are not cheap, so frequently, low-income students do not have a chance to come. Online content can really make it more accessible for students to reach the university grounds. Indeed, for a virtual trip or watching YouTube, a stable internet connection is important. In usual times, many people used the Internet in libraries or campuses, which are not open now. Therefore, in case you cannot access the Internet at home or watch videos on your cell phone, we admit that this creates difficulty. Mitchell mentions that students in the U.S. usually turn on a computer, go to the Internet, and everything works fine for them; they got used to it. Nonetheless, lots of applicants who do not have such easy access to the Internet and Wi-Fi connection find it a luxury. We cannot guarantee such things in everyone’s house. Schools, nonprofits, and local companies have made an effort to help children reach the Internet, but gaps still exist.

A different issue, which is not so clear because of the situation we all are now in, is if applicants will be in classes and when it will occur. Is there any news on whether colleges have considered the possibility of conducting virtual lessons for the upcoming semesters?

We have noticed that universities present more summer lessons and information online, but I do not see institutions removing or modifying anything during the fall term. I assume that schools fairly hope that this situation will be clear by September. Talking about tuition, the topic is important. Applicants and their parents are wondering if it will be the same. Utah has voted for an increase in tuition at the majority of public universities. We have faced considerable economic ambiguity, and universities are right in the center of this.

The process of entering college is often filled with all sorts of disturbances: anticipation, anxiety, gloom, and celebration. So now, applicants are even more concerned about this due to the coronavirus epidemic. How do the students you spoke with feel about this?

Let us admit that this is a big frustration for students, especially for high school learners. Not just studying but also prom and graduation staff remains unclear. Therefore, I believe it is worth discussing: this is a big issue.

We also should not forget that a college is a place that many students have in mind from the first year. Especially in high schools, they constantly think about it.
Moreover, when students are enrolled, spring should be super-festive. Many schools post on their websites or in halls where students choose to go. Seniors can wear their future school clothes on some days. Unfortunately, a lot of this is gone.

Mitchell says that in such an atmosphere, he is bothered not only about disappointment but also the fact that when learners stay at home, they might not be enclosed by the university community. According to Mitchell, their college was a place where seniors could have a loud talk about studying in college, and this is in dreams now. He mentions that it is not good to be worried about it. Now many of their students say, ‘So, what will this process be like if I do not want to talk with you face to face when I need information? My family is bewildered. They are disappointed. They are anxious. They do not know what to expect. In addition, I am talking to them about my education while universities send students homeward at the same time.’

What would be the key conclusion for college students now?

I guess you need to breathe and not to forget that you are not lonely in this situation. We understand that circumstances are quite doubtful, and there is some uncertainty. It may be quite depressing because you are tight to your house now, and you do not have the opportunity to see your friends. You are not with your coaches or your consultant. Still, do not forget that your consultant and people at your school are still working and actively trying to improve the conditions. Admission and financial aid centers are still operating. Thus, you can contact them virtually and ask for answers to your queries. They are ready to provide you with the information you need. Do not forget that the current situation is temporary, and everything will come back and be all right. You are not the only one with this problem, and institutions are ready to support you.

Source: npr.org