As many colleges work to determine whether to open campuses this fall, high school students have a lot of decisions to make about which school they should attend. Members of the College Confidential community have posed dozens of questions about whether the admissions landscape will change in the coming season, and how this will affect both current high school students and those hoping to transfer or attend graduate school.
To answer those questions, College Confidential hosted a webinar on May 24 entitled "COVID-19's Impact on Admissions." During the event, moderated by Abigail Ford, director of digital learning with Inside Track, the following panelists offered their perspectives on how the landscape is changing during this unprecedented period:
- Carjamin Scott, EdD, director of admissions and recruitment at Tennessee State University
- Francesca Reed, vice president of enrollment and marketing with Neumann University.
Check out the following topics that the panelists discussed, along with their views of how things may unfold.
Colleges Navigate Balancing Act for Fall
Several students have shared frustrations about what might happen with the fall semester, and whether colleges might welcome students to campuses or not. Reed noted that Neumann is working to help figure out those answers as soon as possible. "We all know that what we're thinking right now could look very different in a couple months, but I think all institutions want to open," she said. "We miss our students, so the plan is to get people back in a safe manner, and that may look a little bit different. For families trying to make these decisions, keep an eye on what the institution is doing. I think every school will have a plan in the next several weeks if they don't already. And keep in mind that the school may have a plan but the state may have a very different plan for them, so it's really going to be a balancing act. So just be aware that we have the safety of the students, our faculty and our staff at top of mind."
Scott noted that Tennessee State has established a task force to determine the best strategy to open in the fall. "We are planning to reopen, but we are trying to figure out what that might look like," Scott said. "The health and well-being of our students takes precedent," she said. "We should have exact dates to start soon."
And although some colleges may be seeing declines in student enrollment for fall due to the pandemic, Reed said that enrollments at Neumann are fairly consistent right now with where they were last year. "I think most students have had a disruptive high school experience during senior year and are ready to start college," she said.
Work with Institutions for Financial Aid Assistance
When it comes to financial aid, colleges are working to help students whose families have been financially impacted by the pandemic. Neumann University, for instance, has frozen tuition for the fall to stabilize things for families. "We are taking financial aid appeals as they come, and so for a lot of institutions including Neumann, it's on a case by case basis, but we're also setting aside funds to help students," Reed noted. This is taking place both monetarily and in the form of technology such as providing laptops, book vouchers or other resources to help students have a successful transition to college.
Scott added that Tennessee State University has allocated some of the CARES Act funding that it received to current and incoming students, and that anyone interested in applying for those funds can email the financial aid department of their institution.
High School Juniors: Get Creative With Extracurriculars
Several students have asked whether this year's tumult in the college admissions process will impact the class of 2021, since some current seniors may defer acceptance for a year or reapply to college this fall. In addition, current high school juniors didn't have access to spring extracurriculars or standardized tests, and may face pass/fail grades for the spring instead of letter grades. Plus, some student athletes are concerned that they may have missed opportunities to be scouted by coaches.
"Maybe at some highly selective institutions, admissions could possibly be more competitive in 2021, but I think it's really going to vary, so I wouldn't be overly concerned," Reed said. "The good news is everyone's in the same boat, so everyone will understand the impact to the last portion of your junior year. Maybe you won't have a letter grade. Every school will take that into consideration. Universities are going to adjust and we're having these conversations now — what do you do with a pass/fail course, for instance?"
Scott noted that she hasn't seen any current high school seniors defer admission, so she doesn't foresee any issues with admission for next year's class. And when it comes to student-athletes, she said Tennessee State works with those students well before junior year in most cases, so juniors shouldn't stress about missing out on spring scouting. "A number of our students for our football team have gone onto the NFL, and we have a very a competitive, highly-ranked athletics department, and students know how to get in touch with us to join our teams," she said.
In terms of extracurriculars, most students probably weren't waiting until late spring of junior year to start doing them, Reed said, so it's likely that they already have some on their student resumes. "Whether it's athletics, music, clubs or volunteering, you've probably already been doing these and you'll have an opportunity to do them again, so if there's a hiatus right now you'll be okay, but think about being creative going forward. Every school is different in what they want, but they'll be looking at applications differently."
Here's How to Handle Test-Optional Policies
One student asked College Confidential about whether it's a good idea to submit test scores to colleges that have gone test-optional for future admission rounds. The panelists agreed that if you have strong scores, it can't hurt you to submit them, and Scott added that submitting scores can sometimes help you get scholarship money. "Some scholarships require you get a particular test score to get those dollars," Scott said.
If you don't submit test scores with your applications, admission committees will be looking at other aspects of your application to make a decision on whether to admit you. "We may be digging into the transcript a little more, and looking at the rigor," Reed said. "This will vary by institution, some will want an essay component, so keep all those things in mind."
To review the entire hour-long webinar, you can watch the replay here.
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