April is the month when many graduating high school seniors make their decisions about which colleges they will attend. The final deadline for most colleges will be May 1. So, why will this year’s decision time be so much harder than in the past? The answer is probably obvious. In the past, COVID-19 was not a factor to be considered.
There are many new questions to be addressed, including some of the following: How will the virus affect the opening of colleges in the fall? In the spring, was the school’s curriculum completely virtual, somewhat virtual and/or in the college’s classrooms? If virtual, did students live on the campus or were they in their own homes on the computer?
Families may wonder if spending thousands of dollars to attend a school that is only virtual is worth the cost. Good grief, the decision is different this time around. Now, students need to analyze the way that they learn best. Taking a good look at their senior year, how did they react to virtual learning. Some detested learning solely on the computer. Others strived. How did a student react from the lack of socialization with their classmates? Studying with their friends? Being at home with the teacher on a computer screen? Missing the give and take in the classroom? Not being able to take part in athletics? The Ivy Leagues did not have spring sports. Extra-curricular organizations could not function as in the past.
Of course, some students who applied and were accepted early decision to a university are no longer bothered by deadlines to let the college know if they are going to enroll. Those students, their parents and their high school counselor signed a contract stating that they would be in the entering freshmen class.
Judaism on Campus
Hopefully, you care about this topic. If you were active in Jewish youth groups you might be interested in the Jewish groups on campus such as Hillel and Chabad. Maybe you do not include Judaism on your priority list. There are countless stories of students who did not consider the importance of their religion at college, but on a whim attended a Sabbath dinner because a friend urged them to come for a free meal and never stopped coming to such events. Isn’t college an environment where exploration is promoted? Then, your heritage would become an important part of your education. Do not forget the topic of anti-Semitism, which has been, unfortunately, on the rise. What is taking place on your interested college campuses? On one of my many college visits, the tour guide made me very suspect because of the falsehoods that she had been brainwashed with by an anti-Semitic group on campus.
Have you taken career and college inventories while in high school to guide you to an appropriate major? Such career counseling becomes helpful in one’s college search. If you have an intended major, how strong is the prospective college in that area? There are various ways of finding out about the strength of a major. For instance, from current students at the college. Internships are often coordinated through a college career center with jobs created through those internships.
Perhaps there are internships related to your major or you can shadow someone in your chosen occupation.
While in high school you probably have never experienced a class of 100 to 300 students. Picture such a scenario in college. Or would you like to be in a class less than 60, or less than 30? Consider how you learn best. Are you a student who thrives when participating in class or would you rather say little in class? Study the class sizes at your various colleges. Note that in your junior and senior college years, classes in your major should be less crowded than the previous early part of your college career.
What activities are you involved in at this time both in and out of school? Which activities would you want to continue in college? Look at college websites and see what is offered outside of the classroom that piques your interest. Remember that your extracurricular life in college will be seen at graduate schools and potential employers.
Cost of Attendance
Whether or not students are thinking about the cost of college, parents are most likely considering the financial implications of the next four years. There is both need-based and merit based financial aid. For Georgia state colleges, there is also HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships. If you applied for financial aid, you should have received an award letter. You should compare the awards and carefully study the award letter, asking questions such as: Is the award renewable or limited to one year? Loans have to be paid back, so you need to know the deadline. Do you have to maintain a certain grade point average to continue receiving the scholarship? If work-study is included, you may have the option to accept a job at school. Do you have siblings who are also in college or will be applying within the next few years? These are considerations for the family.
The decision is not always an easy one for high school students but hopefully in the next month you will have carefully reviewed the options and made a good choice. If you are undecided, keep studying those institutions you are considering. Even visit the finalists on your list for a second time to ensure you’re making the best decision. ì