How to Choose College During the Global Pandemic

It is not the first time that the higher education system suffers severe crises. But it survived them all. We don’t doubt that it will withstand the current global pandemic of COVID-19 as well. Still, it will take some time.

Right now, colleges and universities in the USA are closing their gates as the pandemic is spreading. It means possible troubles for their current students. But even more, it can hurt the high school boys and girls planning to apply this year. Under normal circumstances, they would already be in a process. The reality is, unfortunately, another.

March and April are the time when high school seniors decide which college they will apply. They would weigh their chances and options and try to visit the campuses personally. It is a priceless opportunity to get precise information about the institution. Such details would hardly be present on even the most informative essay website.

Of course, campus visits require specific resources. In most cases, candidates have to cross a significant distance – may be hundreds and thousands of miles. That’s why some colleges even have dedicated programs to fund such travels for the students in need.

But the current year is a year when we live during the pandemic outbreak, and the future is uncertain. With closing campuses, students lose the opportunity to get in touch with the colleges they consider to apply. The same relates to the sophomores who still have to live on campus – they don’t know how their semester will start and when. It is a vortex of uncertainty and despair.  

Still, it is not the end of the world. COVID-19 brought us all understanding that many college processes must be changed. Students can choose colleges to apply and get the quality higher education. As coronavirus crisis made most of the institutions to move online, it is much easier to get all the necessary information.

Innovative Approaches

Colleges and universities have no other way out than to invent new methods to respond to the latest global challenge. The reality they face is unpredictable. So, the “react-to-the-things-as-they-come” approach is the most efficient.

Some institutions have changed their deadlines for applicants. By default, students have to decide about college before May 1. This deadline is extended to June 1 in some institutions. It will give the applicants more time to get prepared and resolve some urgent problems.

However, even if colleges stand on the standard terms, you can get more information to meet the deadline. There should be news on the official websites. Admission offices should provide the necessary details on the phone or by email. The way colleges treat these problems is one of the most indicative factors for the students and their parents. Both the strength and weaknesses of each institution become more than obvious.

The time of crisis is not beneficial for making decisions of crucial importance. But if you have to – engage all your research skills and critical thinking. Gather as much information about each college as possible — Google for the reviews, school newspapers, and archives. Talk to the students and tutors whenever possible. This way, you can understand the current status on campus and the way the college fights the problems.

One more vital concern is the question of safety and security. Though schools pay all their effort to ensure total protection for their students, it is hard to provide 100% insurance. Get the statistics about college safety policies and on-campus crime – schools must make this information available. You can learn the details in the database of the Department of Education – there will be a complete overview of all issues and their types.

Don’t ignore the community either. College and campus are not isolated, so, learn about the neighborhood. Find the local towns’ websites and check the college-related news. The things they might not mention om campus can get in the spotlight of the third-party sources.

When you collect as much information as possible, sort it, and analyze it. Define the pros and cons and evaluate them. Discuss your concerns with your family. There can be many possible solutions, so weigh them all – you will come to the right conclusions.

Transparency

While you are collecting the information from the admission office and the community, think about the factors that are essential for you. Which data do you need to make a decision? What are sources revealing for you?

For many candidates, it cannot be easy to differentiate between reliable and misleading data. College offices won’t be eager to share some details that can overshadow them. However, they must answer your direct question and provide transparent and honest information. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Demand clear answers about the things that worry you.

For instance, the problems of racism are still actual in many colleges. Institutions fight them, but in fact, the fight is far from the victory. Some standard manifests of equity might be on the surface, but you need to dig deep to understand the real situation. There isn’t any registry where you could search for the “racial equity in colleges” and get the list with rankings in one click. It will be your research requiring more time and analysis.

Search for any incidents with a racial background related to the college. Check the reactions of the administration on those incidents. By all means, learn about the related crimes in the statistics. And above all that – try to find the witnesses and talk to them. They can be students and tutors of color, and they would share their experiences. Of course, people can be biased – they are most of the time. But if you talk to several people – the more, the better – you can get the full picture.

Openness is a two-way street. You demand transparency from the colleges. But they want the same from you. There are rules that you, as a student, will have to obey.

The college offices will want to learn about your convictions as well – they are no less important than your academic knowledge and skills. The campus visits program was the most beneficial for colleges. While students were collecting information about the colleges – the colleges did the same for the students. Now when most of them had to cancel the visits, they need other ways to learn about the candidates.

Emails are a traditional method of communication accepted in colleges. Indeed, most students don’t like this method preferring instant messages and phones. It is natural, as they may be impatient and willing to get all answers at once. Still, colleges prefer emails.

What does it mean for the candidates? Please check your email. Most likely, you will get the college response by email. It can be a letter with the requested information or the instructions to get to another platform where you can communicate differently. But you need to check emails.

Transparency is necessary. Get the direct and honest answers from the college – and remain open yourself. Don’t lie or pretend. If you consider this or that school to enroll in – you must have already shared its values. So, show it to the admission officers too.

Diversity of Voices

The information about the college should be all-around. It would be a mistake to rely on one source – even the most authoritative one. The college life is multidimensional, and you should consider all its aspects. You can ignore some of them as a student, but it is often not the wisest choice.

In-depth information from the college office is not enough. Check for other sources to get a better understanding of that institution. Refer to Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Learn about the employees on LinkedIn and get in touch with the active students of those colleges. It seems like gathering references and recommendations – but this practice is the most efficient.

Learn about all aspects of college life essential for you. It can concern classes, sports, social life, research programs, and all the fields that matter. Listen to as many voices as possible to develop your opinion. At the same time, mind your own behavior. No one would want to get rejected because of leaving a kind of the wrong impression.

This spring is unique – neither most of active tutors nor students have even close experience. Canceling of traditional admission practices disappoints them all. College officers love to present their campuses and introduce the candidates to the college. They can’t do it now. But the new reality dictates new methods.

There are already virtual admission programs where you can meet the college representatives. It can be even more beneficial for many students, especially those coming from low-income families. Instead of spending time and money on the road, they can schedule a personal online session with the admission aid.

If you consider some college for enrollment – check if it offers such opportunities. If they can provide multiple ways to contact and talk in real-time – it is a clear sign of them being attentive to their students’ needs. Many schools can connect you on Skype, Zoom, or another platform with current students, professors, and coaches. You can even have a virtual tour on campus when it is suitable for you.

In these times of uncertainty, colleges proving their readiness to adapt and still support their students will get the advantage.

Objective

Before you start to search for information, take some time, and think of your objectives. Why do you want to apply to college? Consider the things you want to get there – knowledge, the possibility to take part in research programs, doing sports, a college degree, or anything else. There are lots of reasons different for every candidate, and each of them may be correct.

The most crucial question that you face at this stage is to understand why you need it. The answer will direct you on the road of search.

It is better to identify your reasons and needs before getting to the list of schools. It helps to narrow the search. But it is reasonable to change your opinion in the process. When you collect the information and analyze it – your conclusions will deal with lots of aspects. You might not even think of them at the very beginning, but they can become essential.

Some pundits recommend making a list of pros and cons for each school and sort them all. Mark the thing that you want to get, the things that you love and don’t love. Then add a more detailed classification:

  • The items you don’t like but can tolerate for a greater good;
  • The things that are totally unacceptable.

You can’t know how you will react to some events when you enroll in college. So, it’s better to detect factors where you know your reactions right now. Some issues might not be worth trying.

Another helpful method is to think about your intentions as ways to resolve some problems. Our lives are constant conflicts, so define it for yourself which issues you must solve. When you understand the problem – consider the means to resolve it. After that, you can evaluate the schools which of them will give you those means.  

By the way, if you are still uncertain about the college after all the interviews and data collection, it might be better not to apply at all. The price of a mistake is high. Don’t let yourself waste time and resources on something that does not suit you.

The old tradition of a gap year can work in this case. You can get yourself this year after high school graduation and try all other things. Work, travels, an internship in some companies, or any other activity that you feel for can help you to make the right decision. When you understand for sure what you need and want – you can prepare for the college much better.

There is no use in uncertain decisions. Make your choice when you are sure.

Find Benefits in the Process

The choice itself is a privilege. Don’t think of this process as a tiresome job to do – it is a delight. Think of all opportunities that you have now! Your researches are an excellent adventure of mind where you can find great things and meet great people – even if online only.

When you have several colleges to choose from, think of the best things they can bring you. The years of studies can be the best time of your life, and it is one of the arguments for your choice too. Consider the things that will inspire you and let you enjoy the studies.

It can be useful to engage some people whom you trust and who now you. Their suggestions can also lead you in the right direction. But the final act, after listening to all voices, must be yours only.

We all now live in a time of enormous stress and anxiety. But it will pass. Don’t let the current problems overshadow your future. The time of crisis may be the time of opportunities.

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Personal College Rankings

College rankings published by specialized platforms might not be useful. First of all, not all of them are true – it is an advertisement first of all. The best way is to compile your own rankings. Their undoubted advantage will be matching your personal needs and requirements.

It should be an efficient approach. We offer you a system of seven criteria that we consider essential for each student – from our own experience and many people’s opinions. Here these criteria are:

  • Outcomes – the main goal of your enrollment. Evaluate the options that the school offers, for instance, internship, job placement, graduation rates, and so on.
  • Affordability – it is the main decisive factor for the absolute majority of students. What are the tuition costs, are there ways to get financial aid, can you take the student’s loan, and will you be able to manage it? The answers will be crucial.
  • Support – the way college life is organized. Evaluate the tutoring level and counseling. Think of the accommodations and advising. All these features determine the quality level of your college years.
  • Equity – the factors of campus policies, the ways they treat issues of diversity and inclusion, and all the other things of representation that are important for you.
  • Engagement – what other activities the college offers. Are there research programs, clubs, and societies you would like to participate in?
  • Community Life – all the factors concerning the safety conditions, events taking place on campus, food plans, and so on.
  • Intuition – it says for itself. Trust your feelings.

This list is not engraved in stone – edit it as you wish. Add all other categories you think valuable.

Now rank each college from 9 to 1 for each of the factors mentioned above. Nine would mean “excellent,” and “1” would be “unacceptable.” Of course, they would be your personal and subjective opinions.

But note the most vital thing: you might not find the school that will be ideal in all aspects. Then it all will be about balance. Find your balance – and it will be the right choice.

View the Perspective

We live in hard times. The coronavirus crisis and many other problems of the changing world show us that things are unpredictable. Let’s treat our current challenges as valuable lessons.