WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — February 2, 2021 — COVID-19 made waves in several sectors of the economy, and the adverse effects of the pandemic in the realm of higher education, in particular, have not gone unnoticed. The pandemic has placed economic pressure on schools due to a lack of international students and fewer stateside applicants. Unfortunately, plummeting enrollment is but one of many challenges faced by prominent universities.
For those enrolled in higher education institutions, shifts to remote platforms have become commonplace, as faculty and staff work to insulate at-risk collegiates from high-touch point surfaces and crowded lecture halls serving as part-time coronavirus Petri dishes. Among students who quickly made the shift to online school, remote learning presents challenges in the form of distractions at home, technical struggles, wavering motivation, and difficulties staying caught up in class, rendering remote structures but a band-aid solution.
With these remote-specific educational roadblocks in mind, first-time students have delayed pursuing their degree until after the pandemic, citing financial difficulties brought on by COVID, aversions to online learning, and a daunting application process.
With the end of the pandemic being continually pushed farther into the future, many universities are beginning to express concern over how COVID-19 will affect the future college admissions process. Additionally, higher-ups have devoted concentrated attention to its effect on potential students who wish to pursue a college degree.
College Application Woes
One of the main issues mentioned by both students and college officials is the application process’s newfound difficulty. During a typical year, potential students and parents would flock to universities for campus tours and a taste of the experience that awaits them. Now, students are putting off applying altogether, given that virtual learning environments can’t satiate newcomer’s desire to immerse themselves in the authentic “college experience.”
Though the online application process for many universities has not changed due to COVID-19, in-person recruiting events (an invaluable resource for incoming students attempting to decide between schools) have been postponed.
A Silver Lining
Students performing a one-person circus act and juggling several college applications can’t afford to overlook high-priority deadlines in the virtual learning era. Designed to help keep you organized amongst application stresses, the Common Application can help streamline first-year students’ admissions process. Via the Common App, aspiring collegiates can generate a single application to send to several schools, which can help save time and keep all pertinent information stored in a single easily-accessible location.
With this glimmer of hope at the end of academia’s socially-distanced tunnel, a wave of college hopefuls may consider their decisions to press pause on their bachelor’s-degree pursuits.
Everything’s Gone Virtual, For Now
In a matter of days, universities around the country made a massive shift to online-only learning environments. The move to entirely-virtual classrooms has affected students and faculty on campus and university staff in administrative departments, like admissions, university advising, financial aid, and registration alike.
As such, potential students are approaching communication with professors, admissions counselors, and former teachers and peers in an entirely different way. Many find themselves relying on email for all communication, dunking former high-school students relatively unfamiliar with formal email correspondence into the deep end of higher education.
University personnel now conduct interviews for scholarships and internships entirely over virtual meeting platforms, with no end to this practice on the horizon. However, this side-effect may be a plus for many students with inflexible schedules. Since admissions counselors are traveling less, these mentors are now available to respond to inquisitive students’ questions without delay.
Different Testing Requirements
The pandemic forced several schools to cancel SAT and ACT days back in the spring of 2020, leaving many college hopefuls with no options to take these mandatory entrance exams. Many universities recognized this predicament and agreed to not penalize applicants without these test scores due to pandemic-related cancellations.
Universities on stand-by now anxiously await to see how the globally-rattling pandemic affects high school standardized testing practices. Without further insight, test-optional policies’ destinies remain uncertain. With several higher-ed institutions already adopting this practice, the pandemic has urged prominent universities to evaluate whether standardized college-entrance exams will be a requirement for college entrance post-pandemic.
COVID-19 will have lasting effects in higher education arenas, and the admissions process is no exception. With students and faculty resiliently adapting to online learning and correspondence, these tech-based skills could serve as an invaluable asset for those entering into the tech-innovation-embracing job market of today.