Tips for High School Juniors and Seniors Navigating COVID-19

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The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives on many levels including funding higher education. Let’s look at current and potential changes that may impact the way students navigate applying, entering and paying for college.

High School Juniors

In the old pre-Coronavirus world, high school juniors would be entering a period of increasing anxiety and anticipation as they sit for exams, visit colleges and begin the college application process.

In the new Corona world, there are already changes to that process:

  • College visits: With campuses closed, colleges are offering online information sessions, virtual tours and one-on-one sessions for prospective students.
  • Admissions tests:  Future SAT (and Subject Tests) and ACT exams are subject to cancellation.  For the most up-to-date information check:
    • The College Board for SAT and SAT Subject Tests.  In addition to rescheduling dates in the late summer and fall, the College Board plans to offer digital in-home exams.
    • The ACT for information about the ACT exam.

FairTest reports that more than 1,100 colleges are currently Test-Optional. Some colleges have recently joined this list in response to COVID-19.  Others will likely join as they re-evaluate their admission criteria and how they will market themselves to prospective students. Here is a list of Test Optional colleges as reported by FairTest.

Tips for Juniors:

  • Monitor these SAT and ACT websites for news about the upcoming test dates and new accommodations such as at-home digital testing.
  • With more time on your hands, study for the exams using the free online free test-prep available on the SAT and ACT websites.
  • Start your college search a little earlier.  Be sure to frequently check the websites of colleges on your list and participate in their virtual tours, online info sessions and other activities they are offering.
  • Remember, the colleges may be more anxious than you.  Why? Their business model is threatened.  You have more than 5,000 schools from which to choose.  Colleges are dependent on your application to ensure that they can pay the bills.

High School Seniors

COVD-19 has required changes to the way senior class graduations are handled and many schools are still in the process of making final decisions. Even so, every Senior should take time to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements. Meanwhile, colleges are continuing to review their process for receiving next year’s freshman class. 

Some colleges are:

  • Extending the deadline for deposits to secure a place in next year’s class
  • Separating the tuition deposit from the housing deposit
  • Lowering the amount of the required deposit

Colleges have been busy adjusting to social distancing in a very short period. They had to:

  • Safely close their dorms and campuses
  • Establish remote learning platforms and grading policies for current students
  • Consider how to handle:
    • The fall freshman class
    • Summer programs
  • Some seniors are considering a gap year by deferring their admission for another year.  In the past, gap years were taken by a small percentage of students who were interested in earning money, traveling, or participating in a particular program before going to college.  You can find more information about gap years in this article, “Is the Gap Year a Good Idea?”.

Gap years can be excellent opportunities for many students. For those considering gap years for the next academic year remember that:

  • Colleges must approve gap year requests. Students do not have a unilateral right to inform the school that they are deferring their admission for one year.
  • Some colleges may grant gap year requests and permit students to enroll in the following fall.  Others require students to re-apply if they decide to take a gap year after being admitted.
  • Colleges manage the gap year requests carefully to ensure that their net tuition revenue is not impacted by too many requests.
  • Some options that were previously available many not be offered

Tips for Seniors:

  • Check-in with your college online or by calling to see if they have changed the deposit deadline or requirements.
  • For those now considering gap years:
    • Contact your college to ask about their gap year policies and procedures.
    • Create a viable plan and line-up the job, travel, or particular program as soon as possible.

In these unordinary times, communication becomes increasingly important because circumstances and reactions to them change quickly.  If you have any questions, be sure to reach out online or directly to your student loan servicer, college, or high school sooner rather than later.