Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Kids Are in College. Now What?

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

It’s hard to believe just two months ago, we were all wondering just what this year would bring in college admissions, now that colleges can continue to pursue students who have deposited at other colleges. We were SO convinced that would be the game changer of our year.

Seems kind of quaint now, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong—that’s likely to still be a big deal—but there are a few more factors colleges now have to take into account before they decide how far to poach, and if to poach at all. Since those are the same issues we have to think about it, let’s review what we should be asking our students about in this week’s version of reality.

For seniors, it’s important to ask:
  • Are you reconsidering your plans for life after high school, and if so, why? Recent surveys show up to 1/3 of seniors are reconsidering their college choice. We need to know who, and why—and you have to believe, most of them won’t be telling you voluntarily, so we’re going to need to ask. Especially if it’s about…
  • Has the recent financial downturn affected your college plans? Stock market plunges have changed the value of college funds, and closed businesses have led to layoffs by the millions. That’s more than enough reason to get families to think twice about the college plans made just two months ago—but, again, money is the last thing families want to talk about with us. We have to find a way to make that conversation happen, and be as comfortable as possible.
  • Has the cancellation of SAT and ACT changed your college plans? Most colleges always take students the summer after graduation, but the cancellation of the spring—and, most likely, June—SAT and ACT might make summer admission more difficult. If this is what’s holding a student back from applying, now is the time to connect the student to their dream school and find out how the college is handling this change. Chances are, they’ve got a Plan B.
  • What about plans for visiting campuses? There isn’t a lot of point of visiting a campus that’s closed, even if they would let you do that. Many colleges are offering virtual tours; combined with live Q&A sessions after, this can help a student understand more about a college. These online tours get mixed reviews, but they’re generally worth it—especially if the online tour gives the student the feeling this isn’t the place for them. If a college can’t make a campus look great to you in cyberspace, it’s likely time to move on.
  • Are you ready for online classes? More than a few colleges already have plans in place to offer more classes online in the fall, even if they are physically open. Many colleges are expecting lower numbers of international students on campus, in part because most have to pay full price, in part because some won’t be able to get the required paperwork to study in the US. One way to still enroll overseas students is to offer online courses—but that could mean domestic students might HAVE to take online classes to get what they need for a degree. Of course, that’s also the case if the college doesn’t reopen campus in the fall, something many public health officials are seeing as a likelihood.
  • Are you thinking about taking a year off? Students who are looking at all these variables might decide to give things a semester (or a year) to get back to normal before they start college. Deferring is OK, but most colleges will likely be reviewing their deferral policies this year. It’s one thing to get a dozen requests to wait a year, but if this turns into the hundreds—as it could—that means all kinds of things for the college’s budget for this year, and for the juniors applying to college next year. Call the college and ask about deferral. The policy they have today probably isn’t on their website yet.
And what should you say to your juniors? Tell you what—get your seniors settled in this week, then come back for a discussion about juniors next week. Be safe.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dr. O'Connor,

    Just want to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blogs.They are always very helpful! Thank you.
    Kristine Linden