How to Choose a College during COVID-19

Posted by Rose Frezza, Texas OnCourse on Apr 28, 2020 5:29:59 PM

The college admissions process of 2020 will go down in history books. Campus visits have been canceled. Individual and family financial circumstances are up in the air. Many colleges have moved their admissions decision deadline to June 1. So how on earth can educators guide their students on how to choose a college during COVID-19? Read on for four tips below:

1. Be realistic about budget.

Encourage students to think about how their (and their family’s) financial circumstances have changed or will change through the end of 2020. Are their prospective schools working with students and families to help support them? What are those schools’ deposit deadlines? Is there any new information to add to a financial aid appeal? Encourage your students to seek answers to the hard questions and have family discussions. Financial discussions can be tricky, serious conversations. Be an available ear to listen and advise. Financial aid officers are available to provide you, your students, and their families with additional guidance during this time. 

2. Acknowledge student needs.

Nobody knows your students better than they know themselves. Encourage your students to list the physical things they will need to be successful at a college or university. They should consider what their “normal” experience will look like as well as the possibility that distance learning persists through the fall. For example, do they have (or can they get access to) a laptop, a data plan, and reliable wifi? If it seems doubtful that they can secure this on their own, what are the institutions on their list doing to help them? Again, this will require research on the students’ part – but can point to where they are likely to thrive before making a decision.

3. Be aware of school offerings.

Talk with your students about how each school on their list has responded to student needs during COVID-19. For instance, were schools proactive in contacting them about admissions updates? Was virtual content available to support students in making an admissions decision? Has the school been nimble in adapting certain experiences to the virtual world, like offering video tours in lieu of campus visits? In a way, this pandemic has been an opportunity for organizations to adapt on the fly and rise to challenges. How well this is being done can indicate sustainability and attention to student care.

4. Phone a friend. Or check out Instagram.

There’s no better account than a first-person account. Because almost all campus visits have been canceled, your students may be wondering how they can possibly get a feel for an institution’s culture over long distance. This is another opportunity for your students to start asking questions. They should ask the admissions office to put them in touch with current students and/or faculty, whom they can correspond with. An online student newspaper is another wonderful way to keep abreast of on-campus trends and happenings. And let’s not forget social media. If a student is interested in theatre, for example, encourage them to search for that campus organization’s social media accounts. Those will offer a real-life glimpse into student interactions and campus life. Connect them to other high school alums that are currently enrolled at the school(s) on their list. This can provide the opportunity to ask more personal questions. 

Looking for more information on college admissions updates and how to support your students? Tune in to this episode of NPR’s Life Kit, and check out this webinar from the Southern Regional Education Board. And don't miss our ultimate guide to college and career planning during COVID-19.

Topics: College Planning, Educators, Coronavirus, High School, Distance Counseling and Learning