The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the distancing measures implements to slow its spread have significantly altered our lives. My college freshman has been sent home to complete the semester online. My seventh-grade son doesn’t know when (or if) he will return to school this spring.

And many families attempting to plan for college admission and decisions have found their plans messed up. This situation is obviously in flux and we don’t know how long schools will be out and campuses are practicing social distancing.

There are things you can do to work around these college planning challenges.

For Families of High School Seniors

First, I’m very sorry. I know this was not what you had planned. It is completely normal to feel angry, sad, and frustrated.

If you have not decided where you will be attending school next fall, here’s what you can do:

  • Expect to make your decision without additional campus visits. Admitted student weekends are likely to be canceled and many colleges have already sent all students home to finish the semester online.
  • Call the admissions office and ask for their help in making your final decision. Ask questions. Have them put you in touch with the financial aid office. Find out how you can connect with current students to ask questions and learn more about campus life.
  • Review notes from previous campus visits. What did you like? What were your concerns?
  • Search out virtual tours and YouTube videos from the colleges on your list.
  • Reach out through social media to get remaining questions answered.

Traditionally, students’ final decisions are due to colleges by May 1. I’m already hearing discussion in my professional networks that this deadline may change.

Be prepared to make your final decision without the traditional spring visits to campus. Colleges understand this is not the ideal situation and will try to answer your questions and work with you as much as possible.

Finally, make sure you complete all paperwork to accept admissions at your final choice school. Make sure you have paid deposits and at the end of the semester, send your final high school transcript.

For Families of High School Juniors

You have two major areas of concern:

  • Testing (SAT, ACT, etc.)
  • College Selection

Testing

Testing has already been affected. I had a number of students prepare for the SAT that was supposed to be given last Saturday then schools in my area canceled.

As of today (March 16):

Both ACT and College Board are looking to offer additional test dates for students.

I know this is frustrating, especially if you have been preparing for a spring test. Be patient and know that more summer and early fall opportunities are likely.

College Selection

Your spring break college tour has probably been interrupted. That’s ok.

Now is not a good time to visit campuses anyway. Right now, colleges are busy taking care of the students currently on campus. Many are making plans to send students home and complete the semester remotely. You will not get a good feel for any school if you visit now.

What you can do:

  • Take your college tours online. I like the official ones mixed with some unofficial student videos from YouTube.
  • Do more exhaustive research. Read about special programs on the college websites, create a spreadsheet to compare options, reach out to admissions by phone or email.
  • Prepare to start the applications process without campus visits.

Hopefully you will be able to visit campuses this summer, but you may not get to see many in regular session.

For me this situation means students may include a few extra schools on their college list than usual. Maybe you apply to 12-15 schools instead of 8-12.

Finally, plan to make more campus visits next year. Yes, this may mean missing school for a few days in the fall or spring.

Conclusion

The coronavirus is impacting our lives and that included college planning activities. Please take care to practice social distancing and follow suggested guidelines. Understand that schools – high schools and colleges—are working to do what they can. Be flexible and know that everyone else is going to be working through these same issues.

Take care!