Before I graduated last year, I was a transfer student. I went through the college search process twice after my first college of choice went bankrupt and closed at the end of my first year.
After I started at my second college, I acted as a student mentor for young people looking to apply to college. I helped them with their applications, tips for budgeting, book recommendations to get ahead, and ultimately helped to inspire and motivate them during their college search process.
I simply cannot imagine trying to navigate the college admissions process during a global pandemic.
I watched my two younger brothers start their first semesters of college this fall. I had advice for them, I had tips and recommendations like I had for all those students I interacted with as a student mentor, but I can’t answer the biggest questions and challenges they’re facing: will I get a good education? Will I get a good experience? Will I be safe?
I still work in education, here at Unibuddy. I’ve seen first-hand the impact the current situation is having on prospective students, and their families.
This is without a doubt the most difficult time in recent history to be a college applicant.
Let’s break it down.
Colleges were closing pre-pandemic due to their uncertain financial futures – and that’s now been exacerbated with many more closures expected as a result of the coronavirus. I know how difficult it is to navigate a college closure – many more students will soon find themselves in the same situation. More and more colleges in the upcoming months will close, declare bankruptcy and merge together to consolidate the number of colleges across the country.
How can a young person heading to college differentiate between those colleges who will survive and those that will not? Ultimately, they can’t.
Will students be willing to accept an online experience, or a socially distanced campus experience? It will raise the ‘value for money’ question during a time of huge financial uncertainty, as students prepare to miss the social interaction, the campus activities and the experience of living away from home.
For international students, the possibility of overseas travel could be a deciding factor. As the availability of visas are restricted – both for remote study and for post-study work – and the world watches increasing political tension and hostility on American soil, overseas students are facing doubts about coming to the US for their studies.
But even for American students, this should be a factor – the college experience is made by the people you meet, who come from all corners of the globe. If your college experience lacks diversity, its value will be further deprecated.
It’s clear then, that students have plenty of reason to be confused, uncertain and deterred from their education plans. And that uncertainty will cost the Higher Education sector, and the wider economy, in the years to come.
There’s so much uncertainty in the country about what will happen next week, let alone next year – and students are being asked to commit to a college for the next four years. That’s why I can confidently say that in modern history, there has never been a more difficult time to be a college applicant.
I’ll keep supporting them however I can, and I know the sector will too, with innovative solutions and a student-first approach.