How to Make College Decisions When Campuses Are Closed

Mar 15, 2020 · 27 comments
Toms Quill (Monticello)
Amherst or Williams? Williams or Amherst? Not too bad a deal, either way!
Karen (Missouri)
Defer enrollment if you can. Online and pass fail aren’t good options for students. With so many unknowns about when students are going back, don’t waste your money on fancy colleges till schools are really back in session. You can catch up by taking summer classes. You wouldn’t get your moneys worth starting college in the fall at this time. Your tuition money would benefit a college but would have little upside for you.
Miguel S. (Chicago)
The vast majority of students have already made up their minds by now, and many already confirmed acceptance. What is a new challenge for many students/families, is how will they pay school if a sudden loss of family income, students' internships and summer job loss and other unforeseen challenges for those who mapped out how to foot the bill. Schools and gov based on past year's taxes, which may be widely off reality for many families. Unfortunately, it won't be the super rich nor the super poor impacted, but the vast "middle".
Denise Baylis (New Rochelle, NY)
The author fails to mention that qualified independent college counselors who are members of HECA and/or IECA are students' best bet for help in determining what colleges are the best fit. High school counselors with huge caseloads and myriad other things to do cannot spend the time that IECs (Independent Educational Consultants) do in visiting colleges and universities, meeting with those schools' admission staff, researching colleges' features, programs, academics, or spending time getting to know their students and families needs, limitations and preferences. We are trained, committed and ethical professionals who focus exclusively on high school (and college transfer) students' journey and transition to college, and deserve that recognition.
Ed (Los Angeles)
@Denise Baylis are these consultants working pro bono? Or is this just a plug for outside consulting, which is very expensive?
Miguel S. (Chicago)
Many schools were ahead (surprisingly) of private industry and certainly our gov't in taking actions, perhaps because college staffs are highly educated (and believe in science). With so much learning outside the classroom, it will alter my daughter's experience and what is her last semester. From interviews on campus to social events, those things are now done too, at least as they would have transpired. Sadly, the milestone of graduation - walking across the stage in cap and gown to get diploma version - is no longer for millions this year too. An early and rude welcome to the now surreal "real world" we hope we've educated them to face.
sb (WI)
dirty secret. it really doesn't matter.
AhBrightWings (Cleveland)
It's not just those looking. Pity the poor kids functioning in chaos in all schools and those already in college. My daughter's college extended spring break. I had a strong hunch we might see it go the way of others and switch to digital learning for the rest of the term, but no word from on high so we chose to get her with just a suitcase in tow. Ten minutes after arriving home --and the journey was double what it should have been because there were *four* major accidents on the highway (because people have lost their freaking minds) --she got a text that her college is closing down. We now have to consider how and when to go back and get her things. Do we wait until this peaks? Will we be allowed to? Is it better to go back (5 hours round trip) right now? Are we going to continue to be charged room and board even if she is not there? Inquiring minds need, not want, need to know. Evidently many of our seniors were in tears on Thursday, their last day for at least three weeks, because many had already begun to suspect what I think is highly likely...that their entire senior spring will be prom, no carnival (massive fundraiser for a charity of the girls' choosing) APs in question (I'm a reader) and perhaps no graduation ceremony. We have no idea how our digital learning platform will work, if it does. Adults can prioritize and do triage, and we have a much larger canvas that this plays out against, but for our young people, this feels apocalyptic.
Yo (Seattle)
@AhBrightWings Yes, so very difficult. In Seattle. Our son was in Boston, freshman. His school sent everyone home, so that was actually helpful (while completely crazy trying to pack up and leave on his own, at 19, and the horribly sad and chaotic goodbyes, and trying to transition now to online learning - hah!). At least he and his belongings are both here, instead of 3000 miles away. Meanwhile, my friend's sons came home from colleges in Pennsylvania and New York for spring break a couple of weeks ago. First they extended the break, now it's online for the rest of the year. Belongings are 2500+ miles away... We will all have stories to tell. Take care.
Jonathan Katz (St. Louis)
The tours are worthless. You don't need to see the cafeteria and gym. What matters are your fellow students and professors. Of course, you cannot meet them either. So just guess. The colleges are all about the same, although each pretends it is special.
Julia (Oak Park, IL)
@Jonathan Katz I wish I could agree that they're all about the same. But after my daughter's first year in college, I can definitely say they're not. Her university said all the right things during the tour and follow-up, but we experienced much disappointment & hardship when we discovered the reality didn't match. Too many problems to mention, but the food at the cafeteria is virtually inedible (confirmed by numerous kids) despite the college increasing fees to address it. Her dorm had a water and mold/mildew problem that they didn't address. Her RA was a bully and the RA's supervisor admitted they had numerous issues with her, but they didn't replace her. The communication from the university, in March, was almost non-existent when we were trying to figure out if we had to pack up her dorm & bring her home or not. A carefully considered 13 hour r/t to pick her up & they told us 2 days later they were shutting down the school & moving online. Ugh. No, not all schools are the same. Buyer beware.
Stefanie (Pasadena,CA)
Find out if a current university student in your community is home for break. Arrange a get together with them to get a student perspective of the school.
Paris expat (Paris)
Oh for goodness sakes! I got accepted to Stanford in the early 90s and committed to going there despite the fact that I never had an opportunity to visit the campus. And that was before the days of virtual tours online, etc. Stop being spoiled kids— say yes to the best school you can afford and just show up in September.
Tara (New York)
@Paris expat What if it’s still virtual learning then? Is it worth the extra money ?
Rich Murphy (Palm City)
What are the odds anyone will be leaving home in September. Time for nationwide online learning at home. Everyone will get a degree from Trump U. All of the people who want a united federal approach to COVID should want the same for education, we could call it Common Core.
fdl (missouri)
Some colleges are extending the reply date to June 1. Follow @acceptgroup on Twitter for an updated list. No family should have to decide about college right now.
Barbra (Colorado)
There are so many unknowns to contend with! Our patience is already being tested so much. I work with many colleges, conservatories and universities through to support prospective and current music majors and their families. I know all schools are working as fast as possible to put in place the best possible next steps for their students and families. None of it is perfect or glitch-free. Unfortunately, neither the schools nor any of us around the world were as prepared as maybe we should all have been for this time. But that's 20:20 hindsight. What we can do is focus on creative solutions to all the arising problems while doing what we know to stay safe and help keep the virus from spreading.
Josiah Lambert (Olean, NY)
As a parent of a high school senior and a college professor, I wonder what happens if the crisis continues beyond the spring. I don't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on tuition, room, and board only to find out that students can't come to campus and must take classes online. I would rather have my child take a gap year! But that concerns me as a university employee. What if my students don't return?
Ed (Los Angeles)
@Josiah you sum up the dilemma. As a parent, I too want the best value for my student. As a teacher, I’m aware of the financial realities. My kid plans to do online in the fall if needed as she wants to graduate from the school in question. She also does not want to wait around for a half year or year and attend school as a freshman in 2021. But I would say too the fact her choice is reasonable in cost matters, of course.
urbanprairie (third coast)
Online education is not new. But how good is it? Is it being done to preserve classroom interaction? One of the most important things about college is the student's cohort - making friends and doing things with them. And when the important resources of a college campus are no longer available, like the library, guests invited to campus to give lectures and talk to students, student groups and activities, access to professors in face-to-face office hours, getting to know students from other countries, a sense of community, etc. then what is the difference in quality of education between expensive elite schools and local colleges? Students on auto-pilot can find substitutes locally or on TV and in the media for many of the resources they are missing by being home.
Tara (New York)
@urbanprairie College Friends? That’s nice but can be transitory. The most important thing is academic learning, as it leads to potential opportunities
Michael B. (Washington, DC)
There are so many things unsaid in regards to university education. This could be a moment of reckoning. My daughter is home for the rest of the semester, from an expensive private college. Supposedly there is a credit coming for room and board, we will see what that looks like. But what happens if they do not open in the fall? Even if the virus calms down, it will come back next year. It's going to be really hard to justify one online college costing tens of thousands more than another online college.
kat (sf)
@Michael B. I agree wholeheartedly as both my children have returned from expensive private colleges. I would advise incoming students to consider how the college treated the current students in this crisis. First and foremost, how has the school prioritized the health and safety of the students? Second, determine the willingness of the institutions to provide essential and critical financial assistance to students in need AND to refund room and board to students sent home. (I fear some schools will shield themselves from refunds by claiming that they did keep dorms "operational".) Third, analyze the quality of the online instruction by asking to "sit in" virtually. Sending everyone health and peace.
Chris (North Smithfield, RI)
I work at a university. These are extraordinary times, so I would not base any college decision on how fast or easily a parent or guardian can get to a child if a crisis such as coronavirus occurs. Also, my own son is still on his college campus several states over and is handling himself well. And no one is going to "dumpsterize" student items. Finally,if ever there were a student who takes "very, very little" with them to college, I've never met them! In short, for any students making a decision on choosing a college, the basic rules should apply: Does it fit your budget? Is it the right size for you, and does it have a variety of majors to choose from? What about support services? And while most will thrive at their first choice, students have the ability to transfer out (as I did) with no harm done. Relax, students, and don't stress out over the college choice. When you're older, you'll make far more consequential ones.
Alive and Well (Freedom City)
As someone whose child is on her way home from college, even as I type, and one already home, one thing to bear in mind more today than ever is: How would your child get home on his or her own? It's not at all guaranteed that parents or guardians can go get a child, as we are all discovering. A second observation about how this virus has changed college considerations, your child should bring very, very little to school with them, and nothing of value. Many schools cancelled classes during spring break and many students' things are still in the rooms. It's possible that those things can get dumpsterized rather than getting picked up.
sb (WI)
@Alive and Well Pssst. They're adults. Get on a greyhound like I did in college.
Jonathan Katz (St. Louis)
@Alive and Well "can go and get a child"? We sent five children to college, and never delivered or picked up any of them, or even saw the campuses before graduation. They are adults. They can arrange their own transportation.
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