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With the uncertainty presented by the Covid-19 crisis, our parents and students are asking how college admissions will be affected, especially for rising seniors.
The crisis has exposed many of the flaws inherent in our current academic systems and will force schools to change how they recruit, teach, and support students going forward. It will likely change what the “college experience” means for many current and prospective students for the foreseeable future. With these changes will come a reassessment by students and families about what is important in the college experience and what their goals are for attending college, what are the cost benefits, and does the education or the physical experience of human interaction make for essential parts of that experience.
Some Schools Might Not Make It
As you approach your upcoming college admissions process, it is important to understand that many colleges face an existential crisis with the possible outcomes for their 2020-2022 school years. Many current students are re-evaluating their future enrollment status based on new financial pressures, re-assessed goals, or health concerns. And similar pressures will affect the future applicant pool for years to come. In addition, reductions in revenue from college sports, room and board, and on-campus amenities will affect how colleges structure their offerings going forward. Schools are tapping endowments, cutting staff, and killing off smaller departments in an effort to survive. Without a doubt, almost every school will shrink, and many of those items cut will not return. Prospective students need to assess the economic health of the schools they consider to gauge their comfort with its long-term viability, especially in the case of smaller schools with lower demand.
New Dynamics at Work
Here are some of the changing dynamics we think will affect the college admissions process during the next few years:
Location: With the threat of future closures a possibility, many students may plan to attend school closer to home, swelling the number of applications to your local and in-state schools. The lower cost of in-state and community college tuitions will also raise the appeal of schools close to home.
Less Applicants Overall: We expect enrollment to continue its downward trend as fewer families can afford the cost of college given current economic prospects. It is also likely that international student enrollment will decrease dramatically as travel restrictions and concerns about the stability of the country reduce the appeal of studying at a U.S. school.
Larger Applicant Pools: Many selective schools, seeking to meet enrollment quotas at a time of decreasing demand, will need to increase their applicant pools by reducing requirements and accepting a wider band of students than normal. In many cases, the SAT or ACT test score range will be lowered to entice more students into the applicant pool.
Incentives: For the next few years, schools will likely need to offer price cuts or additional aid to get quality students to accept their admissions offers. Many schools may even try poaching students who have committed to another school already. Those schools that survive the next year will find just as many challenges appealing to and enrolling the classes of 2021 and 2022.
Focus on Early Commitment: Schools will be incentivized to secure student commitments as early as possible to lock in students.
Shifting Deadlines: Current seniors know that the deadlines to commit to many schools this year shifted from May 1 to June 1, with many admissions officers indicating flexibility for everything from test results to final grades. Rising seniors can also expect to have more time to submit test results should the SAT and ACT not be widely available before the winter deadlines.
Testing: Test optional or not, we expect continued difficulties with college admissions and advanced placement tests during the next 12-18 months. Students should test if possible because of the upsides scores will provide, but many schools have indicated they will still consider your application without scores for the next year or more.
It’s Okay, You’re Not Alone: In all our research on this topic, one theme rung true for everyone involved in the college admissions process: a deep understanding that students have and continue to experience an extremely traumatic event that has altered the very fabric of their lives in unimaginable ways. Admissions officers get it, college deans get it, your school administrators get it, because they are all living it too. If you find yourself stressing about a particular aspect of your application that may be missing or not what you hoped it would be, try to focus instead on the aspects you do have and how you can use them to showcase your talents.
With the traditional spring and summer visits canceled for now, many students will not be able to explore and digest their potential campus environments as in years past. But students can still learn a tremendous amount about many schools thanks to the wealth of online resources. Here are some resources for you to use right now to keep your admissions plans on track:
Search for schools by a variety of parameters and connect with schools you are interested in through the site. By now, rising seniors should have a strong list of schools. Now is the time to narrow down that list based on your needs.
CampusReel provides prospective students with video tours of school that have been created by actual students, giving you a real-life view into their days, living quarters, and extracurricular activities, and more. At a time when students cannot travel, the platform provides inside access to hundreds of schools from fellow students.
Common Data Sets
The Common Data Set initiative aims to provide consistent and comparable information for participating schools that students can use to explore the numbers behind attendance, costs, graduation rates, degrees awarded, and much more. This information is used by publishers to create many of the well-known college guides. Many schools will post their CDS online, so a search of their admissions site or through Google should provide you with the document. Here is a Wiki with the CDS for many schools (just note some links are out of date).
NACAC College Admissions Status Update 2.0
The National Association of College Admissions Counseling has a assembled “a central resource of information about changes in college admission as a result of the coronavirus outbreak” where you can research current information for hundreds of schools regarding applications, policies, deadlines, and more.
Follow, follow, follow the admissions and general accounts for your target schools. We find that many schools are focusing their communications with prospective students through Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms more than their websites or emails. Admissions blogs for the schools are also a great resource to get their current thinking on application requirements, deadline extensions, and the evolving on-campus experience. Many schools are also hosting virtual tours and Q&A sessions regularly.
Want help cutting through all the clutter to find the perfect schools for your academic and professional goals? Does the thought of completing your applications under the stress-free guidance of an experienced counselor sound good? We offer 1-week workshops in August for rising seniors where attendees learn about and complete all the major parts of the college applications used to apply to more than 900 U.S. schools. Individual assistance is also available as a package or as a'la carte services throughout the year. Workshop seats are limited this year, so reserve your seat soon.
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