How the Coronavirus Has Impacted the College Admissions Process

coronavirus and college admissions

How the Coronavirus Has Impacted the College Admissions Process

Published March 14, 2020

coronavirus and college admissions

The news surrounding the coronavirus has caused concern for the health and safety of our families. It makes sense that those of us working in the college industry and families who have students involved will also be impacted by this new pandemic.

The effects are far-reaching, and the situation is constantly changing as more and more colleges respond to this health crisis.

How will colleges deal with the effects of this pandemic and how will it affect you and your family?

If you have students currently in the midst of college prep, be prepared to adjust your methods and activities.

If you have current college students, colleges are currently adapting to protect their students and faculty.


College Prep and Admissions Decisions During the Coronavirus

Families with students who are in the midst of making a final college decision will have some adjustments to make. Colleges will certainly be changing and re-evaluating admissions procedures and practices.

College visits

Colleges are suspending college tours and college visits for the time being.

If your student is a junior and in the process of creating a college list, this change can certainly impact their information gathering and their ability to get a feel for the campus. If your student is making their final college decision they will have to decide without revisiting any of the campuses.

Fortunately, there are options available for your student in the midst of these changes. Virtual tours are available online for most campuses.

Your student can chat with current students online using social media or through a college connection to gather information or ask any questions they might have about the campus or college life.

We have set up a thread in our PayingForCollege101 Facebook group where parents of students interested in certain schools can notify parents of students already at those schools to help them connect, discuss college life, and specifics about the school.

You can join the group here

Students will most likely be able to meet with admissions representatives using online conference tools.

By using these online tools, your student should be able to get all the information they need to assist them in making a college choice or a final college decision.

SAT/AP/ACT testing

The College Board and the ACT are closely monitoring the coronavirus situation and have posted information on their websites.

Some test centers have closed, some have provided alternate locations, and others will provide make-up testing at a later date.

Check their websites for updates:

SAT/AP testing

ACT testing

National College fairs

Due to coronavirus health and safety concerns, all remaining Spring 2020 college fairs have been canceled. This includes National College Fairs and STEM College and Career Fairs.

At present, NACAC plans to kick off the Fall 2020 season of college fairs on Sept. 10. A total of 55 college fairs are planned for fall.

Admissions decisions

Colleges will most likely expect students to respond to their offers of admission by the original deadline of May 1.

But colleges will be under pressure to sway admitted students without the admitted student programs since most campuses are closed for the rest of the semester.

Colleges may rely on unusual tactics such as late acceptance, extending the application dates, and encouraging students to commit prior to the May 1 deadline.

If your student is waitlisted, their chances of being offered admission increase because colleges will rely heavily on the waitlist to make sure their class is full for next year.

A parent on our Paying for College 101 Facebook group informed us that Whitman College in Washington sent out an email stating “Students from the Pacific Northwest have reached out to us here at Whitman College expressing that, in light of the coronavirus, they now wish to consider colleges closer to home. If you’d like to apply to Whitman, please submit your Common App and all required application materials no later than April 1 with no application fee.”

Look for other colleges to make the same offer in the future.

For more details on how the admission process will change and what colleges are doing to increase enrollment, check out this link:

How coronavirus could impact college admissions

Current college students

As you have undoubtedly already heard, current college students’ lives have been uprooted during the past week. Campuses are closing.

Study abroad programs are being canceled.

Students are being forced out of their dorms and sent home. How will this impact those families?

Campus closings

As each day passes, more and more colleges are closing for the remaining semester and turning to online classes.

This presents a whole slew of problems for students and their families. Families are concerned about when and how to get their students home.

Students are concerned about work-study programs, scholarship funding, financial aid and what on earth will they do with their belongings.

Harvard got so many questions that the university put out written guidelines for students on financial aid and pledged to help with storing, shipping ,and other costs, as the list of colleges sending students home grew ever larger.

Thankfully, many companies are also stepping in to help students. Comcast is offering to help low-income families by providing 60 days of complimentary high-speed internet access.

U-Haul is offering 30 days of free storage for students who must leave their dorms.

Moving to online classes also creates some problems.

Students must become accustomed to this means of learning, depending on which platform the college chooses to use for instruction.

Imagine a household of more than one student using the internet simultaneously and having to separate into different rooms for privacy.

In addition, online learning is complicated and often not sufficient for those majors that require students to be present: music majors, acting majors, hands-on-training like labs and trade schools. For these students, they may lose an entire semester of college.

Canceling study abroad programs

Colleges began canceling study abroad programs a few weeks ago, especially those in the highly affected regions of China and Italy.

For many students, this will be their only chance to take advantage of this opportunity. For those students who are currently in those countries, they have been told to return home immediately.

Agnes Scott College’s Hannah Williams didn’t get to go to South Korea. She told USA Today, “To be two weeks from the experience of a lifetime and have it canceled was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life, as studying abroad was the one thing I knew for sure I wanted to do in college.”

Foreign students

With the ban on travel from Europe just recently announced, foreign students will not be allowed to enter the country. Many of these students pay in advance before coming.

For the foreign students who are already in colleges in the United States from those countries affected, will they be able to return home?

Many live in this country year-round as full-time students. With campuses being closed, these students are faced with uncertainty and colleges are faced with the decision of what to do with these students.

Room and board refunds

As you might imagine, parents and students are asking colleges about room and board refunds. With students now being forced to move back home, colleges are faced with the decision on how to handle this parent request.

Harvard has agreed to prorate their room and board costs. Other Boston colleges are offering the same concessions.

If the college is forcing your student to leave campus and you are paying room and board, we suggest you contact the college or view their coronavirus policies on their website regarding any refunds.

Student mental health

Besides these impacts to our families from this pandemic, we must consider our student’s mental health. The National Association of School Psychologists reminds parents:

It is very important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events. If parents seem overly worried, children’s anxiety may rise.

Parents should reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy.

However, children also need factual, age-appropriate information about the potential seriousness of disease risk and concrete instruction about how to avoid infections and spread of disease.

Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety.

Follow the guidelines they offer in this article: Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource


Financial Implications to Students

The financial implications of this virus are widespread:

  • The loss of work-study income
  • The loss of Teachers Assistant and Resident Assistant income
  •  Unexpected travel funds and moving/storage expenses

In addition, this will impact a family’s college savings and student loans. According to, “Any 529 saving plans with high foreign stock exposure may be disproportionately affected.

The stock market generally undergoes at least three corrections and one bear market lasting more than one month in any 17-year period and it’s been nine years since the last such correction.

A stock market correction occurs when stock prices drop by 10% or more. A bear market occurs when stock prices drop by at least 20%.

The Federal Reserve Board might cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point or two if the coronavirus affects the world economy.

This could cause interest rates to drop, including on federal student loans.”


For More Information

In addition to all the information provided in this article, check out these additional sources:

A list of colleges and their coronavirus policies (updated on March 12)

3 Impacts of coronavirus on college admissions

Financial impact of coronavirus (parent perspective)






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