Coronavirus pandemic makes college choice more difficult for students

Suzanne Monaghan
April 21, 2020 - 11:54 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The deadline for high school seniors to decide which college to attend in the fall is May 1. Most schools have kept the deadline, despite campuses being closed. Others have extended it to May 15 or June 1.

Many accepted students are choosing their college without ever being able to visit the campus.

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Application Nation founder Sara Harberson compares it to "buying a $300,000 house without ever walking through it."

Harberson says the question students need to ask themselves before committing to a school is: "Is this the right college for me, even if online classes continue or campus life never returns to normal?"

High school seniors are making decisions about where to go based on what that school was before the pandemic.

However, Harberson said, "The four-year college experience will never be the same."

Sports and activities could be canceled, which changes things socially. There may be new restrictions in place. There will be fewer out-of-state and international students because of concerns about travel and being far from home.

"Students that got into the colleges of their dreams are now reevaluating whether that’s the right move from a distance standpoint, from an ability to get home if there is an emergency," Harberson said.

Very few colleges have announced their fall semester plans, even though Harberson says most schools know exactly what they’re going to do — because they have to bye this time of year. 

"My guess is they’re going to wait until after their enrollment reply date or after they fill the freshman class before they make those big announcements," she said. 

Those big announcements, she says, will most likely online classes for the fall semester. 

"I believe that they will at least have to start fall semester online," Harberson said. "I’m hearing some rumors of colleges starting fall semester a little bit later, in hopes that things will be back to normal as well."

And this will likely affect how kids pick schools going forward.

"I think many of us are taking a hard look at what we thought was important and looking at what really is important, and I think family is No. 1 at the top of that list."