As vaccines against COVID-19 start to roll out across the country, you may be wondering how long the effects of the pandemic could impact the college admissions process going forward.
If your child is still planning to make a decision about which college to attend this year or next, here are some things to keep in mind about trends in college admissions and financial aid.
As students applied to college during an unusual year, several colleges saw record numbers of applications.
But digging deeper, admissions trends depend largely on the type of school. Several prestigious institutions saw a spike in applicants, while others struggled to keep numbers up.
In December CNBC reported that top schools like Harvard University and Yale University saw increased demand in early applicants for fall 2021 and were more selective with which applicants were accepted. The spike in applications came as several schools removed their standardized test requirements. The Common App reported seeing a 10 percent increase in 2020 applications over the previous year for a total of 5,583,753 unique applicants through January 18, 2021.
However, not all schools are seeing such increased interest. “Many colleges outside the top ones—public and private alike—are not having a good year in admissions,” reported Inside Higher Ed. “This appears to be especially the case in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.” In addition, NPR reported that undergraduate enrollments declined last year compared with 2019, with community colleges the hardest-hit.
College Admissions 2021
Even as schools start to ramp up in-person classes, many schools plan to keep SAT and ACT test scores optional for this year’s applicants. Some schools even plan to remain test-optional for much longer. For example, the University of California System is suspending its standardized testing requirement for admission until 2024.
Considering that standardized test scores have long been considered a key part of the college admissions process, the higher education industry is in the midst of discussions about whether the pandemic could make testing less relevant in the long run. The Chronicle of Higher Education said in a recent report about the future of college admissions: “Nowhere is the virus’s impact more apparent than in how it is shaping the future of testing.”
Submitting standardized test scores traditionally can better your child’s chances of getting merit aid, but those schools that have made test scores optional are looking at other ways to determine these scholarships. It’s worth checking with each school allowing optional testing to see how they’ll factor in a lack of scores when it comes to scholarships.
Negotiating for More Merit Aid
It’s understandable if you’re concerned about paying for the cost of your child’s college tuition, especially after the pandemic has opened our eyes to such uncertainty. If a college doesn’t offer your student enough aid, they can write a letter or fill out a form on the school’s website to negotiate a better deal.
While you can appeal a college’s financial aid package during any year, some schools like the University of Miami are offering a special appeals process to explain hardships related to COVID-19. If this is the case, contact the school to make sure you’re eligible and be ready to offer specific data on how the pandemic has affected wages, job losses, or other circumstances.
Should You Hold Out Accepting Until the Last Minute?
The answer about when to decide really depends on your personal situation. It’s unlikely that waiting until the last minute to choose a college will make much of an impact unless you have a specific personal circumstance that warrants it. It’s wise to wait until you hear back from all the colleges your child applied to and take some time comparing their financial aid packages and negotiating for the best deal. However, you certainly don’t want to miss any deadlines by taking too long to make a decision.
Juniors Looking Ahead to 2022
If your student is a junior looking at colleges, they might be wondering how much current issues like budget cuts, staff furloughs, and paying high prices for online courses will impact them when they start school next year.
It’s impossible to predict what the “new normal” might look like, but The New York Times reports that schools are looking to bring back some sense of the “before” times as early as this fall with extracurricular activities and in-person classes.
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