COVID-19’s Impact on Rising High School Seniors This Fall

COVID-19’s Impact on Rising High School Seniors This Fall

We looked at the kinds of challenges and changes that rising high school seniors may face this fall.

Here’s what we found.

All schools that return to on-campus learning will have new procedures in place for keeping students and staff healthy. That includes whatever the state mandates for the number of students allowed in buildings, mask use, how far apart they can sit, where they can eat, hand-washing routines, changes in how clubs and extracurricular activities are handled, and whether sports are played and can be attended. 

 

What Rising High School Seniors Need to Know

College Admissions Testing 

According to the College Board, “Millions of students who were unable to take the SAT this spring are seeking registrations to take the test in the fall as part of the 2021 admissions season.” As a result, they have asked colleges to extend deadlines for receiving test scores and to “equally consider students for admission who are unable to take the test due to COVID-19.”

Some schools are now test-optional (ACT and SAT). According to Fairtest, over 1200 colleges have suspended testing requirements for students enrolling in the fall of 2021. Some of the suspensions may result in permanent changes. 

Education Dive reports: “The University of Oregon is making the scores optional for undergraduates, while Davidson College plans to reevaluate the change after a pilot period.” The University of California System will phase out the SAT and ACT. 

Check each school’s website for the most up-to-date information. Keep in mind that even if a school doesn’t require testing, your child can submit results. This may help with merit aid. 

SAT

If you were hoping to get in one more test in the fall, or missed your test this spring, The College Board is working to add more dates and seating capacity to more test sites. 

Here’s what they’re saying: “We’ll provide weekend SAT or SAT Subject Test administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August. This includes a new SAT administration on September 26 and a new SAT Subject Test administration for international students on November 7. We will also add a test date in January 2021 if there is demand for it.”

Tip: If you can’t find a test center, don’t give up–log out and try logging back in again; websites are continually updating.

Any new seats that have been added in your area will show up.

We’ll also provide general updates as we add more test centers or seats. If you can’t find a nearby test center with availability on your preferred test date, be sure to check other dates.

The College Board has also announced that its postponing plans to offer a digital version of the SAT that students can take at home. This is because taking it “would require three hours of uninterrupted, video-quality internet for each student, which can’t be guaranteed for all.” However, an online version of the SAT will still be available at some schools. 

ACT

From the College Board: “ACT will email all students currently registered for the June 13 ACT test with an update on test center availability and capacity. Test center cancellations and additional frequently asked questions will continue to be posted throughout the week.”  

 

How to Research Schools and Make a College List

You may not be able to visit a campus in person, but you can make use of the virtual tours on college websites, read their student publications, and follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. 

Take a Private Virtual Tour

Campus 360: https://campus360.org/en/

YouUniversityTV: https://www.youniversitytv.com/category/college/

Go See Campus: https://goseecampus.com/

You Visit: https://www.youvisit.com/collegesearch/

Campus Tours: https://campustours.com/

ECampusTours: https://www.ecampustours.com/

GoingIvy: https://goingivy.com/vr/

LCP360: https://www.lcp360.com/blog/virtual-reality-tours-for-colleges

EdNavigators: https://www.ednavigators.com/virtual-college-tours

Some sites even use virtual reality (you’ll need your own goggles!). 

In addition to the tours, there are often maps that help the user scroll around campus.

This means you can put distances to and from common areas in a clearer context.

A student can see how far it is from dorm rooms to classrooms, classrooms to dining halls, dorms to sports stadiums, and more. 

On several sites, students on campus actually guide or narrate the tours. It’s especially helpful to view both a school’s version of their campus, and the versions on the private sites listed above. 

Encourage your child to use social media to connect with recent graduates of the colleges or universities they’re interested in attending, and ask them real-life questions about their experience there. 

They can also reach out to students who’ve recently graduated from their own high school and who are currently enrolled in those colleges or universities.

Questions for those students and grads might include: Has the school conducted online classes previously? 

How have they handled the transition to everyone learning online? Would you choose the school again?

Your child can also go to the Department of Education’s College Navigator and look under the enrollment section. There, they’ll find the percentage of students who are enrolled in distance (online) learning. Given that most schools had to transition to online learning in the spring, you can expect that colleges will likely be better in the fall. However, the percentage from the Department of Ed shows you which schools have a robust number of students learning remotely. 

Your Family Finances

Make sure your family discusses finances, and what you can and cannot afford to contribute to college. 

The pandemic is continually changing the financial outlook for everyone, including how much schools offer in the way of aid. On the other hand, it may also change how much a school costs to attend–especially if students cannot live on campus. 

Air travel is an added expense to keep in mind. Is your child okay with a school that requires a flight to come back home, whether that’s during the holidays or for other necessary reasons? 

In an interview with CNBC, Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA, said that talking to your child about your family’s financial situation can be very helpful to their personal growth: “Ironically, teens planning to go to college in this environment might actually do better at managing their expenses because this crisis is forcing them to consider cost-cutting steps, like living at home while going to school or taking more courses online, which can be less expensive.” 

Tip: In a recent survey by College Ave Student Loans, which specializes in helping students and families pay for higher education, students said that cost had been a deciding factor in making their final school selection, but the majority did not research their school’s average student loan amounts. Looking back, 76% of students would have researched more scholarships.

 

Other Considerations

How is the financial health of the college your student is considering? 

Look for clues about how they are doing by using a variety of sources and resources. 

Check the school’s website and look for any published financial information, including the size of the school’s endowments and any relevant state funding increases or decreases. 

What about the community that surrounds the school? Is the economy healthy? Can you glean any information about the school from their local TV news, radio, or online and print publications?

There are also several other sites you can access with financial information about a school.

Your child may want to consider some alternatives to the more traditional path of high school to college.

Those alternatives may include taking a gap year, going to community college for the first year or two of school, or perhaps attending a hybrid that allows for living on campus combined with online learning. 

A gap year can be a semester or an entire school year during which you are not enrolled in a full-time higher-education program, but are working to gain experience in some other way.  

Deferment is when you delay starting college. Sometimes a school defers your application, and other times a student may request it.

Requesting deferment is not a guarantee that you’ll get it, and the amount of time you can defer varies between schools.

Also, be aware that not all scholarships can be deferred. If a school defers an application, it means the school wants more information about the student, such as grades, etc., before deciding if they are accepted.

 

News About Admissions and Colleges Will Continue to be In Flux

The big take-away is that everything is in flux, and the best way to stay on top of things is to frequently check individual school websites, the College Board, and Road2College for updates. 

Things will most definitely look different when and if school opens on campus again.

But different is a whole lot better than not being able to pursue an education, interests, and a career. 

 

This article was sponsored by College Ave Student Loans. Visit their site to learn more about private student loans.

Their tool section, including an easy-to-use student loan calculator, enables families to compare loan options and determine which loan configuration is best for them.  


Melissa T. Shultz

Melissa T. Shultz

Melissa T. Shultz is a writer, and the acquisitions editor for Jim Donovan Literary, an agency that represents book authors. She's written about health and parenting for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, AARP’s The Girlfriend, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Next Avenue, NBC’s Today.com and many other publications. Her memoir/self-help book From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life was published by Sourcebooks in 2016.
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