What’s happening in college admissions, and what day is this?


I’ve continued reading endless articles and blog posts, and watching webinars upon webinars regarding how COVID-19 will (maybe, likely, definitely?) affect college admissions, that I can’t keep track of what day it is – I don’t even know if it’s a weekday or a weekend day.

Still, I can assure you there are no concrete answers. Just as the California State University system articulated a few weeks ago that they would NOT be returning students to campuses in the fall, the University of California University system indicated this week that they WOULD be returning students to the campuses in the fall. And, there are universities around the world that have iterated every possibility in between (including Cambridge which will be remote for the entirety of the 20-21 school year).

In addition, at home AP testing is wrapping up. While most students were able to successfully submit their work, a small, very disappointed percentage ran into problems that made it necessary to request a make-up exam (and there is no senior that wants to do this again in June). Still, it remains likely that there will be at-home versions of the ACT and the SAT this fall, so we all hope that the College Board gets their glitches worked out prior to that. The ACT already has online versions of their test, so they are likely to run into fewer problems – at least we hope.

With the extension of many university deadlines for accepting a spot, some seniors are still weighing their options moving forward. Should they request a deferral and a gap year (not all colleges allow this, and many are encouraging seniors to start this fall with their cohort of 2020 graduates)? Should they choose a school closer to home (parents and students alike feel a desire to not be across the country should this pandemic continue)? Can they even afford to go to university for four years (community colleges, especially those with transfer guarantee programs, are looking like better options now)? Nobody has answers, and there will likely be a lot of second-guessing right up through the fall.

Juniors, who are just finishing up their spring semesters, and who are not looking forward to online SATs and ACTs, are trying to figure out how to decide where they should apply in the fall. Again, should they be applying to schools that are closer to home or consider starting at community colleges, with a plan to transfer?

Both rising college freshmen and rising high school seniors are rethinking their intended majors with the goal of choosing a career that will survive pandemics and natural disasters (fires, floods, cyclones, dam breaks). Hospitality and performing arts aren’t looking particularly promising, although we are all anxious for these to come back.

Rightfully so, students and families are more concerned with the financial health of the universities they are considering. There is no doubt that some universities, like some businesses, won’t survive the economic devastation that COVID-19 has brought. Some universities will simply shutter. Others are likely to take drastic moves to cut costs: merge with other schools; focus on specific fields; become a no-frills university (do they really need that climbing wall?); offer block scheduling or three year degrees; focus on transfer students in an effort to become a low-residence college; or merge with technology giants to make their online learning more robust and pandemic-proof.

The higher education system as we know it may never return, but what will take it’s place? How will the American college system look in 5 years, 10 years, and even further out?

None of us have answers – but we are learning more, together, all the time. And, so, I am back to another webinar. Then I’ll be going out for a walk. Thank goodness I can go for walks. I might even get some takeout for dinner and support my local small restaurant. Now….remind me, what day is it?