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Jill Haley: High school seniors reassessing college decisions

Jill Haley
Columnist

Senior year in high school started out looking like a typical year. Seniors filled out their college applications in the fall and visited colleges. Applications were completed by early winter. Thinking the hard part was behind them, students waited for admissions decisions to roll in.

By mid-March, just as most colleges were releasing those decisions, everything changed. Just like that. College campuses closed down, sending students home, and offering the final months of classes online. College officials admitted that they were not prepared for the pandemic with adequate contingency plans.

What does this mean for current high school seniors, many of whom have already accepted an offer of admission from a college? The hardest part of the equation is that there are so many unknowns. Will instruction be online? What about housing? Can my family still afford the high cost? Will I be safe? These are just some of the questions my students have been asking in the last month.

The California State University (CSU) system just announced that all of their campuses will be closed, offering on-line instruction only. With the high cost of tuition, families are questioning whether it is worth paying the sum for virtual instruction.

Campuses that will re-open in the fall will look different. College campuses are an ideal place for COVID-19 to erupt, with crowded classrooms and shared student housing. Brown University has announced they will be open, but that instruction delivery will change. Large lecture halls will be a thing of the past, replaced by a hybrid of virtual lectures with small in person discussion groups. Purdue University plans to reopen, but according to the president of the university, they might separate younger students from older students.

Housing is especially problematic. Crowded dorms and dining halls will be a thing of the past, as colleges are scrambling to find alternatives. Students are questioning if they will feel safe in communal living situations. Many students are re-evaluating if they want to be closer to home, to be with their families until this crisis passes.

Families have taken an economic hit during this pandemic and college may not be as affordable as it was just six months ago. I have had many conversations with students this past month wondering if spending the first two years at a community college makes sense in the wake of the pandemic.

Taking a gap year is an option for some, but for those students attending public universities, that most likely means going through the grueling application process all over again. Private Universities usually let students defer for a year, but with the bleak financial situation many wonder if some colleges will survive this epidemic.

High school seniors, and their parents, have some tough decisions ahead and with so little information on what college campuses will look like in the fall there is a lot of uncertainty about what options are best. What we do know is that our seniors have worked hard, are a credit to our community and we very proud of them.

ill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.


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