Admissions

6 Ways Coronavirus Could Impact College Admissions

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As coronavirus continues to affect a growing number of countries, it's become clear that the college admissions cycle is undergoing abrupt and frequent changes. High school students, transfer applicants and those applying to grad school are facing new updates every day that could impact their college plans. Check out the following six ways that coronavirus is affecting the admissions field.


1. Decision-Making for Seniors Is More Complicated

Students who have received acceptance letters may be struggling to figure out which college to attend now that they are barred from formal campus visits. "We're most worried about our high school seniors who are making decisions," said Brooke Daly, founder of Advantage College Planning in Raleigh, N.C. "The decrease in communication with school counselors may reduce the ability to ask questions and work through decision-making processes. In addition, admitted student days have been canceled, so we've been having conversations with students about how to make their college choices."

Many colleges have shifted their admitted student days to an online format, allowing aspiring attendees to participate virtually, Daly notes. "In addition, a lot of students have been reaching out to admission offices, which are operating electronically, if they have questions about academic programs and want to connect with professors. We're also encouraging our students to reach out to current students at the schools where they have been admitted to ask questions." Another option is to do a driving tour of college campuses and the local communities to see the layout or area of a school even if you can't do a formal tour, Daly notes.

2. SAT, ACT Testing Impacted

Some ACT and SAT test dates have been canceled or rescheduled, so sophomores and juniors who were hoping to take the test soon should refer to the College Board and ACT websites for a list of test center closings and changes, said Jodi Siegel, a college admissions consultant with College Bound in Potomac, Md., and former admissions officer at George Washington University.

Although many juniors have already taken the tests, it remains to be seen whether the standardized test requirements will be the same this admissions cycle as they have been. Certainly for test-optional schools it won't matter, but it's possible that schools that haven't traditionally been test-optional may consider offering some flexibility for those students who didn't have a chance to take the test or who were otherwise impacted by test site closures. This will be something that admissions experts are keeping an eye on as the situation progresses.

3. Performance in High School Classes May Be an Issue

Some high schools have shifted to an online learning format, but not every school is set up for this type of system, and glitches could arise. Students who do better in an in-person, hands-on setting may struggle to stay on top of classwork and tests under the new parameters. If you find that your grades are suffering due to the school shift to an online environment, contact your teacher to see what types of resources are available for you to bring your grades up to where they were prior to the shift. If you don't have access to a reliable internet source, some internet providers are offering free or discounted web access for students.

In addition, the College Board has announced that it is "developing resources" that could allow some students to take AP tests at home if school closures are further extended.

4. International Students Might Not Commit

Colleges that rely on significant international student populations could see an impact on enrollment for the next year, Daly says.

Data from the Institute of International Education echoes that sentiment, with a new survey revealing the impact on recruitment in China. Last year, one in every three international students studying in the US was from China, but that could change dramatically. Some 76 percent of institutions that participated in the IIE survey indicated that coronavirus has affected their outreach and recruitment of future Chinese students, while 43 percent say they've seen delays in Chinese students' scores due to suspension in testing for such exams as the TOEFL and the IELTS.

5. Parent Finances Could Change

Although most seniors are already in the process of receiving acceptances and financial aid packages, it's possible that family financial situations may change during this period. Financial markets are down, which could affect college funds, and other people may see their incomes drop during this period, Siegel says. "Presumably, the stock markets will bounce back, but if college fund assets are impacted, people may not be able to afford the college price tags they could have a few months ago. With the economic uncertainty, people may go for the cheaper option right now."

6. Performances/Sports Events Have Been Canceled

Many students who were hoping to head to final club competitions, sports playoffs or dramatic performances may find that those events are canceled. The same is true of academic competitions, art exhibits and many other end-of-year programs that could have boosted college applications for juniors or moved the needle for wait-listed seniors.

Some schools are taking these programs online or delaying performances/games/competitions. Be sure to check in with your school to find out if there are options other than outright cancellation that might allow you to fulfill your dream of finishing out the year and succeeding in your chosen extracurricular.

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