With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the last few months of high school for the Class of 2020, college campuses closed indefinitely, and the possibility of additional outbreaks in the fall, more seniors than ever are considering postponing their college acceptance for a year or choosing a school much closer to home. Some colleges have postponed their deadline to give you more time to decide, but others may still want you to make a deposit by May 1st. If you’re unsure of how to decide on your plans for next year, here are some questions to consider:
Defer or re-apply? If you already got an offer from your dream school, and can still afford the deposit on tuition, deferral is the way to assure your spot in the freshmen class of 2021. Check with your school about their deferral policy first: they may require you to submit a plan or a contract about your activities for the year, and may not allow you to take classes at other colleges without reapplying as a transfer student. If you’re not happy with your options, you can use this year to boost your resume with new skills and volunteer experiences. Just beware: if many students are doing this, the competition may be even more stiff than it was this year.
Is this the right time to make a huge financial investment? If you have scholarships or generous financial aid, this might be a great time to enroll and build your skills while the rest of the economy is at a standstill. But if you will have to take out large student loans, or spend lots of money moving into a faraway dorm that you might have to move out of a few weeks later, it might make more financial sense to stay close to home, take more affordable classes at a community college, or get a job to save for tuition the following year. If your family’s financial situation has changed since you filled out the FAFSA, here's how you can appeal to your college’s financial aid office for more aid.
Is the college is a good fit? When college campuses shuttered this spring, they prevented many prospective students from being able to visit and get an in-person feel for the school. Many schools are making virtual tours and webinars available, but if you are craving more unfiltered information it might be helpful to talk to current students. More than 600 current college students have made their contact information available so you can ask them questions about college social life, extracurriculars, housing, academics, and more.
Is it worth paying full tuition for remote learning? Many colleges are anticipating that they will rely heavily on a mix of remote learning and creative scheduling in the fall, due to anticipated budget cuts and further outbreaks. You should ask your college admissions office to let you “sit in” on a few online classes--just as you would be able to do on an in-person visit--and see how remote instruction is going so far. Are large lecture-based classes still breaking out into smaller groups with teaching assistants? Are seminar-style classes still able to generate rich conversations? Are science, tech and art classes able to replicate hands-on learning from afar? If you’re not able to get the kinds of instruction you were hoping for, it may not make sense to pay full price for those credits.
What to do instead? If the idea of spending another year at home taking online classes or working at your job doesn’t appeal to you, consider something entirely new. Volunteer for a campaign in the upcoming elections. Find safe ways to help out in your community or with AmeriCorps. Virtually tutor younger students who have fallen behind. Become a WWOOFer on a sustainable farm. Plan a backpacking trip in a remote part of the country. Take an online coding bootcamp. Some international service year programs are still in operation, too; learn more about how they’re addressing health risks and uncertainty for next year in this online workshop.
Let us know what you decide or any other questions you have in the COMMENTS below!