Updated: Apr 23, 2020
In response to COVID-19, colleges across the nation are moving to virtual learning, many even sending students home for the duration of the semester. Students abroad are forced to come home. Some seniors in college must end their four years abruptly without any senior festivities and likely not graduation. This move impacts not just current college students, but prospective students as well. High school seniors will be making final decisions this April on which college to attend next fall. Other high school students have flights and hotel rooms booked for college visits over spring break. High school juniors signed up for standardized testing this spring must also stay abreast of test center closures. It’s an unprecedented time that we are living in right now, none that we’ve ever seen before.
For students signed up to take standardized testing this spring, you must stay vigilant on test center closures.
For students signed up to take the upcoming SAT or subject tests this Saturday, please check your College Board account and email for updates. Here is College Board's list of test center closures (keep checking your email and College Board account for updates up until you leave your house!)
For April's ACT, ACT will notify impacted students and test center coordinators directly, as well as post and update information regarding the closures on their website.
For students who are planning spring break travel or admitted student visits:
College Kickstart provides the latest status on campus visit availability for several popular colleges and universities. As you know, the situation changes rapidly so bookmark their page and check for updated statuses regularly.
Of course, students should also be checking their emails for direct communication from the college! While online research and virtual tours can’t replicate in-person experiences, there are abundant resources available for students to compare and evaluate colleges from home. Here are some things to consider:
Social Media: Facebook may not be the high schooler's platform of choice, but most colleges have Facebook groups for admitted students. Admitted seniors should join them to connect with other admitted students and read the discussion. If you “meet” someone you connect with, you can always move the chat to your preferred social media. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are resources as well. Search for YouTube videos on your colleges of interest and you’ll find plenty of students sharing information and experiences about their colleges.
College Admissions Offices: Look for announcements for organized virtual tours and admitted student days from the colleges. Reach out to your regional admission representative via phone or email to inquire about their plans. Ask for their recommendation on how best to experience the college virtually. See if they can connect you with a student ambassador through Skype or FaceTime. You’ll get brownie points for demonstrating interest if you are a prospective student for schools that track this.
Good Old-Fashioned Pros and Cons: Practice your spreadsheet skills by making a pros and cons list or comparison chart of the colleges’ features and data. How does your financial aid package or merit scholarship award compare? What are the graduation and retention rates? Were you admitted directly into the business or engineering school? If you took AP tests, compare how the colleges award credit. Were you admitted to an honors or scholars program with special perks? Which choices best match your list?
College Websites: Do a deep dive into the websites. Look at curriculum requirements and co-curricular opportunities for your prospective major. If you’re undecided, investigate advising resources for students with undeclared majors. Head to the section on student life and learn about student organizations and club sports. There is a wealth of information behind the landing page of every college website.
Data Resources: If crunching numbers is your thing, Google “XYZ College Common Data Set” to explore data about admissions, graduation rates, faculty, costs and degrees awarded. Other resources for data include College Data and College Navigator.
3rd party websites/Books: Our contract students on College Planner Pro should access the Research Launch Pad links to click on all the resources. Revisit your favorite review sources (e.g., books like Fiske Guide, or websites like College Board's Big Future, Niche and Cappex) to get a feel for how your options stand out from each other.
Interviews: Turn to older peers, neighbors and family members to ask about their experience if they attended colleges you are considering or ask if they know current students at those institutions with whom you can connect. Arrange a phone call to discuss their first-hand experience. There are a lot of college students home now for an extended spring break or the remainder of the semester, so tap into their two cents.
There is a wealth of information available through virtual experiences so grab your laptop and cellphone and immerse yourself in research and discovery!
For seniors, re-read your application supplements on why this college, and re-assess if your feelings and perspectives have changed. Know that one of the most important determinants of your college experience is you, and what you make of your time there!
Wishing you all good health!