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  • Writer's pictureAlison Merzel

College Admissions & COVID: What schools are saying

By participating in multiple Zoom calls, I have heard from several Admissions Directors over the past couple of weeks and wanted to share 5 common themes I am hearing about college admissions and enrollment in light of COVID-19:

1) Their concern first and foremost is for the mental and physical health of students and their families. Whether you are a junior who is stressed about missing out on this semester of a critical year or a senior who is worried about finishing up with a strong academic record, the message was to take care of yourself. The difference between this unprecedented event and other major obstacles and life-changing events that have happened in the past is that this one affects everyone. Admissions Directors and Officers are in this, too. They also have kids and pets they are trying to take care of and are facing the same challenges. So, when you are submitting a college application in the fall, they will absolutely be understanding about the cards you were dealt this year. Take advantage of the time with your family, pick up a new hobby or do something you love that you normally don't have time to do. Just be well.

2) If your financial situation has changed significantly and your ability to cover the cost of attendance has changed as a result, wait to receive and review your initial financial aid package and then absolutely reach out the the Office of Financial Aid at the school(s) you are considering to appeal any aid. They will request documentation to indicate what has been going on, but they are expecting this outreach and want to support students and families to the extent possible. If they are able to modify the aid package based on need, they will do their best to accommodate you. This isn't always going to be possible, but don't hesitate to reach out.

3) What about standardized tests? If you were planning to take a spring ACT, SAT, or AP exam and it was canceled, don't panic. AP tests are now being delivered at home. CollegeBoard is still registering for the June SAT for now and schools will be more flexible about submission of test scores if upcoming test dates continue to be canceled. ACT is adding more seats for upcoming summer and early fall test dates to accommodate as many students as possible. Many schools have announced the decision to move to a test-optional admissions policy for the 2020/2021 application cycle.

4) May 1 or June 1 - by when do I have to decide? Some schools have made the decision to push back the decision date to June 1, but other schools are not able to do this or have decided not to. A school's decision to keep the May 1 date is not to make it more difficult for families that have not had the chance to visit campus. There are multiple factors at play and for some schools and changing the decision date would have a domino effect that would significantly complicate an already complicated situation.

5) There is no rulebook for COVID-19. Nobody can predict the future and nobody has all of the answers. Just like we all are, colleges and universities are flying by the seat of their pants. They are coming up with contingency plans should orientations have to be held virtually and they are having conversations about what might happen if fall semester can't start on time and in person. They will continue to be in touch with incoming students about these plans, so the best you can do is to plan as though you are heading to campus for fall semester unless you hear otherwise.

Take care and best wishes for a Happy Passover and Happy Easter.

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