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Making a Postsecondary Decision during COVID-19

By Olivia Rawley, College Now AmeriCorps Career Pathways Coach

There is a lot of uncertainty right now regarding the Fall 2020 semester. Many of the common questions coming up in conversation with high school seniors are things like: Is there even going to be a fall semester? Will it be delayed? Is everything going to be online? Should I take a gap year? Will they cut tuition rates if everything is online?

All of these questions are valid. I understand if you, as a graduating high school senior, are feeling overwhelmed because of it; transitioning from high school to college is already a huge life change, and now you have to deal with a pandemic on top of it?! Whew. Just typing it out makes me feel overwhelmed. With that being said, how do we tackle this problem and start to make a college decision?

Check your prospective universities for COVD-19 updates and announcements.

Every university should have information on how they are operating to ensure the safety of its students during this pandemic. For example, I googled “Ohio State COVID-19 updates” and was taken to the appropriate web page that detailed any pertinent information a current or prospective student could need right now.

Many universities have chosen to move all their summer classes online. The debate about whether in-person classes will resume in the fall is still on the table. When will we know? No one knows at the moment, which is why you should be checking weekly so you can make a better-informed decision.

Consider the geography and size of a university. 

When thinking about prospective universities, this seems like a common question. Some students want to be at a big school in a big city, while some students want a small liberal arts school in a rural town. Yet, it is totally different considering this factor in the context of the coronavirus.

Is this university in a large and dense urban area where I am likely to be in close proximity to people? Is the campus spread out enough where I am likely to practice social distancing safely when moving from building to building and class to class? How big are the class sizes? And, if the class sizes are large, does the university have the resources to move these classes to a bigger, open space if need be?

Also, consider the healthcare amenities in the surrounding area. For example, you often have to travel further for medical treatment when in a rural area. It can be scary to think about college in the context of the nearest hospital, but we are living through an unprecedented modern pandemic – which means considering your healthcare options on or near campus is more important than ever.

Speaking of scary, COVID-19 is more than a physical health concern. The pandemic can take a massive toll on your mental health, especially when coupled with a major life transition such as matriculating to college. It may also be worth it to check out your prospective campuses’ mental health services and offerings should you find yourself needing to talk to a professional at any time during your first semester.

Call the admissions office.

Do not feel like you are bothering anyone if you call! The admissions team is there to answer any questions that you may have so that you can make a better-informed postsecondary decision. When you are talking to someone from the admissions staff, I recommend that you make sure you are receiving clear and open answers. How they respond to your questions says a lot about the university. If they are vague or elusive when addressing your concerns, you might want to consider going somewhere else.

Now is the time to be resourceful!

Ultimately, how you respond to making this decision is up to you. You can either choose to respond actively or passively. It might be tempting to act passively in this situation, but being proactive and getting all the information you can ahead of time will help you make sure you are going into your fall semester as well-informed as possible. Even if things do not go as anticipated – whether that means all fall classes are moved online or are cancelled altogether – you will hopefully feel comforted knowing that you did what you could to make an informed decision. That means reading the university newspaper, reaching out to current professors and additional staff, and joining the class of 2024 Facebook groups to get a sense of the community you might be paired with.

I hope this helps as you are faced with this big decision. And, I want to remind you again that you are not alone trying to tread through this uncertainty. If you have any other questions or concerns, reach out to your College Now advisor. We are happy to provide support, advice, or serve as a listening ear as you talk through your fall options.

Until next time,

Olivia