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College Applications During a Pandemic

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college applications

Change. Change is and will be the action word in your life now and for the next few academic years.

“Oh no! I’m a senior – my last year of high school. Senior year is supposed to be my big, happy (after I get into college) last year of high school. It’s supposed to be the time when I figure out where in this whole country I want to apply to and go to college. I’ve been thinking and dreaming of my senior year all through high school.”

As have all seniors… and so let’s think together of how to work out this pandemic senior year. Even as the chances are very good that a vaccine will be out by the end of your college freshman year… Still, in the meantime, you’ve got to plan with what you’ve got right now.

College Plans Before the Coronavirus Pandemic: Plan A

Let’s start with your college list before the pandemic. That is, what did your college list look like last April and May, in junior year? Which colleges had you researched and thought most about? Let’s call it Plan A. It’s helpful to know if all things were normal, where you have a reasonable chance of getting in according to your academic record, and where you had planned to apply.

Look at Plan A. Is it still OK for you to take a long road trip or fly to where you will have been accepted next April? Have you checked online with those Plan A colleges to learn how they are dealing with their freshman this year? Are they letting students on campus and in the classroom?

Are students on campus now and taking virtual and attending classes? Were all of the freshman or half of the class brought on campus? Have you checked their virus rates? Have they sent home the students who contracted the virus or separated them and kept Covid-19 students on campus?

Have you and your family decided you should be closer to home during the pandemic? No? Then stay on Plan A.

College Plans Change, Plan B: Living Closer to Home

If you and your parents have decided you want the freshman experience of being on campus, although closer to home - take a look at Plan B:

Check off all the colleges on list A that are beyond your travel limits. 2. Buy a copy or go to any library to find America’s Best Colleges, The Fiske Guide to Colleges, or The Insider’s Guide. Let’s say University of Texas at Austin, Northwestern, and Colorado College are on your A list and you live on the East or West Coast.

Your job is to go through one of the guides above to find “like-colleges.” Read about the “too far away” colleges on your A List and check them out in the college guides, looking for similar colleges that are located closer to you.

For example, most state universities have more in common with each other than with private colleges. So if University of Texas was on your list, and you live in New York City, look at several of the state universities closer to home. They all have big-time sports, most have fraternities, and they all have relatively the same academics.

You can easily transfer credits earned whatever state university you attend if you have a C or above. Northwestern is on your A List and you live in Oregon? Take a look at Stanford, the only large private university in the West.

You had better check out state universities as well, or smaller than Northwestern private colleges such as the Claremont’s, which has 7 colleges together making them feel like a university. Carlton is on your list and you live in Virginia? Then look at Swarthmore and Brown. You live in Maine and Georgia Tech is on your list?

Take a look at RPI, Cornell, and Worchester Polytech. Plan B is using your Plan A colleges that no longer work for you during the pandemic, and substitute “like-colleges” closer to home. Talk to your school counselor about these possibilities.

Turning College Plans On Their Head: Gap Year

Lastly, Plan C is to take a year away from school, a gap year, between high school and college. Think about living at home or with relatives or family friends in another town or city for a particular opportunity to intern or get a job at home or away. Take online courses for credit or courses not related to college credit - something that has always interested you, a foreign language, art history, space science or cooking classes.

You will find limitless opportunities – free as well as those with fees. Start a business, get a job, take bike trip with a friend across the country, hike the Appalachian trail from Maine to Georgia, 2,191 miles.

What Should I Consider Before Picking My Plan?

Plan A or B, you’ve got your college list in hand, go ahead and apply. After your apps are all in, February is a good time to check out the websites of the colleges where you applied and find out about the pandemic situation:

  1. Are dormitories and dining halls still open for freshman?
  2. Are classes being presented in person and online?
  3. Are students allowed to live in the dormitory and take their classes online?
  4. What action is taken for students who test positive?
  5. Do they remain secluded on-campus, or are they sent home?

No matter what advice you are given, we can all expect change. If you follow Plan A, B, or C, you will be prepared to go with the changes.

Keep your friends close, online if not in person. Nothing will make you feel better than having the company of your friends in the same “college application boat” with you. The pandemic requires friends.