Jill Haley: College in the time of the coronavirus
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. April is traditionally the time seniors in high school get to celebrate their college acceptances and look forward to high school graduation. Then the virus hit.
It looks likely that high schools in California will be closed, transitioning to online instruction through the end of the school year. Colleges across the country have closed their doors as well and moved to remote learning.
High school seniors traditionally visit colleges in April to finalize their decision on where to attend, if they were accepted at more than one college. With college visits canceled students are turning to virtual campus tours, such as http://www.campusreel.org for one more look.
Once students decide on which college to attend in the fall, they now have to worry about how to pay for it. This year’s college freshman’s financial aid was based on their family’s 2018 income. With COVID-19 causing tremendous job loss and drops in a family’s savings and investments, a family’s ability to pay for college may be sharply different from the income and assets they reported in 2018.
If a family has seen a reduction in income, they should contact the financial aid office where the student will be attending. A college has the ability to adjust financial aid based on extenuating circumstances. These circumstances could include a drastic drop in college saving plans because of the sinking stock market, loss of employment or the extra burden of caring for relatives. What is unclear is how many reserves the colleges will have to increase financial aid for their students.
I am now having conversations with students who are considering attending a community college, to help reduce costs to their families. Others are thinking about taking a gap year and reassessing their college choices a year from now.
College administrators have some tough decisions as well. With the expected loss of donations from alumni and corporations looming, will they limit enrollment in the next admissions cycle?
The college landscape has changed for high school juniors as well. Colleges across the country, including the nine University of California campuses, have just announced that they will be waiving the requirement that students submit the SAT or ACT for admission in 2021. This announcement came as the result of the spring tests being canceled due to COVID-19. Many in the college admissions field believe this may be a permanent change as these tests have been losing favor in the last five years due to reliability issues and discrimination concerns.
While there is much uncertainty ahead surrounding college and admissions, what we do know is that our high school seniors should be celebrated in some way for their hard work and devotion to their studies. Administrators will decide in the coming months on high school graduation, with talk of a possible mid-summer celebration or skipping the ceremony altogether. My heart aches for those seniors who have worked so hard and were looking forward to celebrating with their family and friends.
Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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