A lot of our students are asking me whether the Coronavirus should change which colleges they consider. In particular, they are wondering whether the pandemic will make it harder for them to get into college. I don’t think it will. But it’s completely impossible to know for sure. Like so many facets of society, the Coronavirus is triggering deep change in higher education. Consequently, answering questions about admissions standards with 100% certainty seems nothing short of naïve.
I expect more Class of 2020 seniors than normal to forgo college altogether. And more will defer their enrollment until the fall of 2021. Further, I believe an increased number of current college students will drop out, transfer or delay returning. On top of these likely changes, many colleges may change their academic calendars or curricular offerings. And these uncommon enrollment scenarios will generate unprecedented financial challenges for colleges next year and beyond. One of the most likely results of these challenges will be bigger freshmen class targets for the fall of 2021 and 2022.
How does that impact you?
Bigger targeted class sizes mean more acceptances or – said another way – easier admissions standards. Nevertheless, I recommend you consider mostly the same types of colleges you would have considered if you applied to colleges a year ago. This move honors my longstanding recommendation to prioritize “college fit” so you will position yourself for success. While staying true to fit goals, I’ve identified 5 Newer Strategies that do not align with traditional college counseling advice perfectly.
- Don’t anchor your college search in campus visits. Many campuses are closed, so you should advance your college search online.
- Suspend the need to set your plan for taking the SAT or ACT and add even more emphasis to your coursework and other opportunities to demonstrate your academic interests and talents.
- Push yourself to submit your applications early in your senior year.
- Be prepared to submit your FAFSA in early October of your senior year.
- Cast a wide net to pursue independent scholarships by creating a new account with Going Merry and exploring all the scholarship options you find there.
How does that impact your college list?
As you craft your college list, consider the following 3 Strategies to apply to 2-4 more colleges than the normal, recommended 5-6. The expansion of your list will mitigate your risks and increase your opportunities during this volatile time.
- Make sure the majority of your college list includes colleges where you fall within the mid-50% of their academic profile.
- Include at least one college on your list that’s closer to home in case the pandemic makes travel even harder or you need to commute to class.
- Be bold with your reach colleges. You may now be competitive for colleges that – in recent years – admitted few students with your academic credentials.
With these strategies, you’ll level the playing field and increase your chances for finding a great college where you’ll thrive, despite the Pandemic.
Fitz has dedicated the entirety of his 25 year career to encouraging higher education opportunities. He worked in the Vanderbilt, Duke Law and St. Lawrence admissions offices prior to serving as an enrollment management consultant for dozens of colleges around the country. He is also the founder of Find The Right College which has a mission to make trustworthy college counseling more accessible.