Thinking About What College Will Look Like in the Fall of 2020
By Joe Messinger, CFP®
June 12, 2020
As we write this blog, our country is griped in a pandemic. Practically everything shut down, and now we are beginning the slow process of adjusting to our new normal and opening again. Current college students returning to campus in the fall are wondering what it will look like. Parents of college-bound students heading to college for the first time in the fall of 2020 wonder if they should change their plans. Students who are just getting ready to start the college application process have their own set of concerns. We don’t have a crystal ball to tell anyone what the fall will bring. However, we wanted to take a moment to share some things you may want to pay attention to.
Current college students
Your spring semester ended abruptly. Classwork sharply shifted to an online format. Some professors adapted well and were able to continue teaching from a distance. Some professors disappeared–sometimes leaving assistants to try and teach in their place or just disconnecting entirely. Many were left wondering what they were paying for. Some lawsuits were brought to try and get tuition money back. People thought they weren’t getting what they paid for, but colleges have to keep the doors open and pay their employees. We have no idea how that will turn out.
We know most colleges are hoping to return to campus in the fall. Many are exploring adjusted calendar schedules where students don’t have to go back and forth to home like over fall break or Thanksgiving vacation. They are also probably going to have a mixture of in person and online courses in order to accommodate everyone in a safe a manner as possible.
For those current college students who have been severely impacted financially, you might consider transferring to a closer or less expensive choice. Transferring is not a simple process and much be carefully researched and planned. Remember financial aid available for transfer students is not the same as for first time students. NACAC is maintaining a list of colleges still accepting transfer applications (764 at the time of this writing!). Transferology can help you see which courses will transfer to which colleges. Here is a quick piece about the steps needed for transferring.
Class of 2020…heading to college for the first time
If you follow the news about college planning, you know many articles have been written about taking a gap year. A gap year happens when a student defers their college admission for a year to pursue a separate activity. For some, this option may be a good idea. However, parents need to understand a few things about gap year requirements:
- Each college has different deadlines of when students need to request a deferral. Some can be early in the summer.
- Gap years have to be approved by the college. They are not guaranteed. Deferral requests simply because of the existence of COVID-19 are not usually enough of a reason.
- They need to be for a specific purpose with a detailed plan–like a study abroad program or work experience. Study abroad programs may be harder to come by depending on travel restrictions this year. Work experience might be challenging in our tight employment market right now.
- Many colleges do not allow students to take courses for credit during a gap year. Ohio State is one. Some do. Make sure you know if you are allowed if you hope to take courses during your deferred year.
- Be sure the gap won’t affect the student academically. The student will want to maintain their reading and writing habits during the break.
- Finally, consider that taking a gap year will put your student into a class with students younger than him or her.
An alternate to a gap year could be applying to a different college–one less expensive or closer to home. The same NACAC list we mentioned above includes colleges who are still accepting applicants to start in the fall (757 colleges at this time). Also, consider a local community college with a direct transfer program to a public state school like Columbus State’s Preferred Pathway.
Class of 2021…your turn to apply is coming in the fall.
The good news is much about your college application season will be the same–essays will need to be written, applications will need to be completed, recommendation letters will need to be requested, etc. (Our friends at At The Core have workshops to help students get a jump start on all these tasks in June.)
Colleges will WANT applicants. These turbulent times have (and will continue to have) a huge impact on colleges’ bottom line as state governments cut budgets. Colleges will need to get applicants to stay in business. When making a college list, students should give some consideration to a college’s financial health as part of the process.
Some colleges may extend their deadlines for applications. Recently, the University of Virginia announced their Early Decision deadline will be November 1st instead of the October 15th they have used in the past.
The biggest challenge for fall applicants will be the ACT and SAT testing situation. Some students did not have a chance to get a test score this past spring, or they aren’t happy with the score they do have from an earlier exam sitting. Some colleges have announced they will be test optional for this year’s fall applicants meaning students do not need to submit an exam score for admission. However, most colleges providing merit scholarships rely on the GPA and the test score to determine awards. That may change, but we suspect it will not. We recommend students who are needing that one more exam score register for the August or September SAT exam or the September ACT when registration opens in late July.
College in the fall of 2020 is in a state of flux.
We aren’t really sure what it will look like or what changes to the process lie ahead. Stay in touch and remember everyone is in the same boat. We will all tackle any challenges ahead together.