Finding the right “fit and feel” is the challenging part of the college decision process but there is an added layer of consideration for the fall of 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Graduating high school seniors, along with college students who want to transfer, face a lot of uncertainty about what the fall experience will be like at universities.
Many students are eager to move past the spring and get on with their lives. If they opt not to go to college, it’s difficult to find jobs and internships right now. Many don’t want to put their academic career on hold and are hopeful that the economy will have largely recovered by the time they graduate from college.
While there are still more questions than answers at this point in time, it can be telling to see and hear the responses from a university to consider how they are handling the current situation. Look at the university’s website, community messages it has posted online, its social media posts (and comments), and emails from its Office of Admissions.
Here are 20 questions to guide students and families in making a final decision.
- Have in-person campus tours resumed? If so, how are they being conducted safely? If not, are virtual visits offered?
- On campus: Is there signage about washing hands, cleaning measures, and maintaining social distance?
- On campus: Are people wearing face coverings and is there plexiglass in dense spaces?
- Where is the university located — what do the virus outbreaks look like in that area?
- Are case numbers dropping?
- Is testing readily available on campus or nearby?
- What is the plan if a second wave of outbreaks occurs?
- How close is a major health system to campus?
- What is the capacity of the hospital?
- Does the university have a partnership with the hospital?
- Can students still defer for a semester (or year)?
- Can students take classes elsewhere in the fall or would they need to reapply?
- Can students take a gap year, and if a gap year is being considered, does your child have a good alternative to college in mind?
- How did the university act before and up until this point — was there a pandemic plan in place before January 2020?
- When did COVID-related emergency operations start this year (January/February would have been ideal)?
- When did first announcements go out in the spring — how clear and how frequent have communications been?
- What were the spring 2020 refund policies regarding room and board?
- Did the university offer student support or emergency funds?
- When did the university decide to end in-person education and go online this spring?
- Were faculty given any training to teach online classes?
- Did the university extend the deposit deadline? Waive application fees?
- How tech savvy is the university, and how long has it been technologically adept?
- What is the average class size and how many classes are over 50? (Smaller sizes are better in this era of physical/social distancing.)
- What is the faculty-student ratio?
- Did the university have growing enrollment and budget stability over the last four or five years?
- How does the university plan to celebrate the return of students?
These are just 20 of the top questions I would ask but most of all it comes down to TRUST AND FIT for your family
- How safe do you feel? How safe do they feel in the hands of the administration?
- What indications do you have about how flexible the college will be if your child needs help, an extension on tuition, or gets sick?
- And is your child ready to take responsibility for their own health and safety?
Hopefully, the answers you receive to these questions will guide you toward making the best decision for you while navigating a tumultuous time.
Mother and President, Tracy Fitzsimmons