High School Students: A Mass of Confusion

High School Students: A Mass of Confusion

Dr. Mark Fisher discusses how COVID-19 changes the college application process.

Dr. Mark Fisher
Dr. Mark Fisher

Only a year ago, high school students went to a physical building and took classes face-to-face with faculty. Seniors made a deposit to a college to attend in the fall and embark on their full college experience. Juniors were taking ACT and/or SAT exams, reviewing colleges that seemed interesting, visiting college campuses, even scheduling some on-campus interviews, and all that would be included in a college application. That was the way it was for so many high school students.

Now, all these students have entered a different world. High schools and colleges are in a confusing dilemma. Realize that this article is being written in an academic world that is changing with each day due to COVID-19. Thus, two weeks from today there will be changes. And students need to keep abreast of the changes so that important dates and college adjustments are not missed.

Let us begin with the high school scene. For graduating seniors, several colleges changed their decision deadlines to June 1 from the usual May 1 deadline. Many seniors met the May 1 deadline and submitted a deposit. Now, another college, their new favorite choice, with a June 1 deadline, accepted the student. What will happen to the college to which they already paid a deposit because they want to attend that June school?

Most of your courses were online during this spring. Did you receive grades or pass/fail for your courses? Gone were athletics and other activities that were in your favor? Yes, those ACT and/or SAT dates were canceled. How many more chances will you have for either or both of those tests? Will you be taking the tests in person or online at home? Some colleges have doubted the validity of a test taken at home. Others will go with that situation.

And when will high schools be physically open again? If school activities are not available, what did you do with your time when not doing homework? Creative endeavors? Extra reading? Volunteer work? These activities and intellectual pursuits are a substitute for your extracurricular ventures.

A few reminders for upperclass high school students. There is an Aug. 29, Saturday SAT exam and another one Saturday, Sept. 26. For Jewish students and others who don’t take exams on the Sabbath, you should check if an alternative Sunday test center is open for those tests. There is also a Saturday, Oct. 3, date. But that date is a double-header, both the Sabbath and the first day of Sukkot. The Sunday alternative is Oct. 18. All these dates assume that testing centers will be available.

The ACT exam schedule offers June 13 and July 18 Saturday test dates. View the ACT website for Sunday testing in Georgia and the latest updates.

If you are confused, you are not the only one. Many colleges have perhaps come to the rescue for rising seniors. Every day, one or two colleges join the ranks of test-optional schools. One does not have to report either SAT or ACT scores. What if certain merit scholarships demand those test scores? Some schools are going test-optional for the first time. Will this be only for present high school juniors? Or for a few years, or forever? Perhaps, the test-optional choice will work well.

Of course, both testing agencies are looking at the CDC advisories, the geographic location of various states and political directives. The College Board (SAT) was supposed to announce any changes in their 2020 and 2021 schedule May 26.

Students apply early for test dates. Why? Open test centers may have too many applicants for a given date and will not be able to take additional students. Perhaps, test centers need to use a certain distance between students. That situation may mean more rooms for testing, but are there enough proctors?

What about viewing the situation from the college’s viewpoint?

Some of the options for the fall semester at colleges include:

• Start the semester as usual on campus: Classes in the classroom, as always; athletics on schedule; extra-curricular activities on time, including Hillel and other Jewish student groups. At this moment, a few colleges have chosen this option.

• Some small classes, spacing available, but large classes online so students would not be too close together. A few activities, but not much. Masks may be recommended. In some cases, the professor may be much older and is more at risk than the students.

• Students on campus, but all classes online for the first semester or until it is safe.

• Do not start the semester on time but wait until life becomes somewhat normal. Perhaps, start in November after Thanksgiving.

The above possibilities are just some of the discussions taking place at this time.

We need to remember that colleges are certainly an educational endeavor.

However, we also need to look at colleges as a business that needs to stay alive.

What if a college needs to enroll 1,000 freshman per year? The admission department winds up with 980 students, therefore missing the target. Imagine tuition at $30,000 per year. That means a loss of $600,000. For colleges, it could be far worse. There were small colleges in trouble financially before the virus.

What could happen with empty dormitories? That is another financial loss for the college. Same with activity fees. For colleges that score heavy revenue from athletics, especially football, there is another major monetary loss. Perhaps, the football team will play, but the stands will be empty. Will single, not double person dorms, be available because of social distancing? What about the dining halls?

Will financial aid suffer because of reduced income? While colleges visits are not available, how are you researching colleges? How is your counselor getting to know you better? You were not expecting parents to be unemployed but now the financial picture has changed.

Admittedly, this article just covered some of the topics and issues that did not exist prior to the virus. Welcome to the new educational world!

Dr. Mark Fisher is a college and career consultant at Fisher Educational Consultants (www.fishereducationalconsultants.com) and a consultant for the College Planning Institute (www.GotoCPI.com).

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