I was admitted to college! Now what? Questions and Considerations for Students Starting College in a COVID-19 Environment

Cheryl ChamberlainCOVID-190 Comments

You probably already committed to a college, or you just received an offer of admission after being waitlisted. All this is great, but college in a COVID-19 environment will be anything but typical. College will look very different this upcoming year, and soon-to-be freshman are faced with questions that have never been asked before. You may even be rethinking your decision to attend college. Here are some of the questions you may be asking yourself.

  1. Can I get an extension to commit to a college? Many colleges are providing flexibility beyond the May 1 commitment deadline as everyone makes the shift to deal with the COVID-19 environment.
  2. Should I take a gap year or request a deferral? Maybe you don’t want to attend college now, either because you recognize it won’t be the same or you don’t think it will be worth the expense. But what will you do instead??? Travel is limited and in-person research is likely limited as well. Most colleges require their approval for a gap year plan. “I just don’t want to attend right now,” probably won’t be a good reason. Other colleges will be more flexible, but you will want to do something useful and enriching during this time. You should also be aware that some colleges may put caps or restrictions on the numbers of students who make take a gap year or deferral. This is an individual college decision!
  3. Should I enroll in a less expensive university? Consider your own financial picture. Was attending a certain college already a financial stretch? If so, then you need to consider the alternatives. Some students are opting to attend less expensive colleges that are closer to home, thinking that is a better value. Some are even opting for community college. If so, then you need to evaluate the value the education as compared to the cost for each school. Keep in mind that if you are intending to transfer later, not all credits may transfer and there are fewer transfer openings than for new freshmen.
  4. Should I still attend my intended college if it is online only? It is likely true that online-only education will not provide you with the same value as attending college in person. However, you should remember that most colleges will be in similar positions. College in the fall of 2020 will not look the same as any other year. Even if campuses are open, there will still be differences and limitations. For some colleges that already have robust online programs, the change will be more seamless. Quality of instruction will still vary from school to school and you need to consider which professors you would like to learn from.
  5. If campus is open in the fall, what should I consider? Every campus will have a different response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can inform yourself by asking colleges these questions:
    • Can I opt-out of living on campus, and can I substitute online instruction and/or attending class as a commuter?
    • What is your overall plan for social distancing and protecting students and staff?
    • Will you have a testing and contact tracing protocol and if so, how will that work?
    • What specific plans do you have for housing, bathrooms, large lecture halls, dining halls, transportation, events and parties where contact and social distancing is difficult?
    • What are your plans for caring for and isolating students who become sick?
    • What protocols will you have for travel to and from campus to limit exposure to families and the broader community?

Whatever you decide, consider how different college may be and what adjustments you will need to make.

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