Choosing a CollegeChoosing a College during COVID-19


The college admissions process of 2020 will go down in history books. Campus visits have been canceled. Individual and family financial circumstances are up in the air. Many colleges have moved their admissions decision deadline to June 1.

1. Be realistic about budget.

Students think about how you (and your family’s) financial circumstances have changed or will change through the end of 2020. Are your prospective schools working with students and families to help support them? What are those schools’ deposit deadlines? Is there any new information to add to a financial aid appeal? Financial discussions can be tricky, serious conversations. Financial aid officers are available to provide you, and your families with additional guidance during this time. 

2. Acknowledge student needs.

Students list the physical things you will need to be successful at a college or university. Consider what your “normal” experience will look like as well as the possibility that distance learning persists through the fall. For example, do you have (or can they get access to) a laptop, a data plan, and reliable Wi-Fi? If it seems doubtful that you can secure this on your own, what are the institutions on your list doing to help? Again, this will require research on your part – but can point to where you are likely to thrive before making a decision.

3. Be aware of school offerings.

Research about how each school on your list has responded to student needs during COVID-19. For instance, were schools proactive in contacting them about admissions updates? Was virtual content available to support students in making an admissions decision? Has the school been nimble in adapting certain experiences to the virtual world, like offering video tours in lieu of campus visits? In a way, this pandemic has been an opportunity for organizations to adapt on the fly and rise to challenges. How well this is being done can indicate sustainability and attention to student care.

4. Phone a friend. Or check out Instagram.

There’s no better account than a first-person account. Because almost all campus visits have been canceled, you may be wondering how you can possibly get a feel for an institution’s culture over long distance. This is another opportunity for you to start asking questions. You should ask the admissions office to put you in touch with current students and/or faculty, whom you can correspond with. An online student newspaper is another wonderful way to keep abreast of on-campus trends and happenings. And let’s not forget social media. If you are interested in theatre, for example, I encourage to search for that campus organization’s social media accounts. Those will offer a real-life glimpse into student interactions and campus life.