Applying to College During Covid: What Parents and Students Should Know


Making use of to varsity is an anxious monetary expertise for a lot of college students and fogeys. Now, throw in a world pandemic.

Covid-19 has upended the faculty expertise, socially and economically, for school college students all throughout the nation this yr. And now, the uncertainty about what school will appear like within the fall of 2021 is weighing on high-school seniors beginning their college-application course of—and fogeys making an attempt to determine how they may pay the tutoring invoice.

Will faculties be extra beneficiant or much less with support packages as they navigate the monetary fallout of the pandemic? Is there extra wiggle room to attraction an support bundle? Are there nonetheless advantages to making use of early? Will college students who couldn’t take a standardized check miss out on benefit support?

Listed below are solutions to these questions and different items of recommendation college students and fogeys ought to take into account earlier than making use of to varsity this yr.

Analysis how faculties are dealing with the pandemic

As households compile their checklist of colleges, they need to be wanting into questions like how rapidly faculties supplied promised refunds to college students and what sorts of charges they’re charging college students this yr, says

Religion Sandler

, the chief director of the Scholarship Basis of St. Louis. In some circumstances, faculties which have chosen to coach college students largely remotely have waived most of the charges related to campus. In different circumstances, faculties could have raised or charged a brand new know-how payment for the supply of on-line programs.

“I really feel like it could be a lift to have it now,” Ellis Hicks says of sending standardized-test scores to the colleges the place he plans to use.


Ericka Hicks

Ellis Hicks

, a 17-year-old high-school senior from Cleveland, says he’s listening to how faculties have handled college students throughout this era, noting he can be dissatisfied to be taught a college he was all for was charging college students a know-how or different payment for on-line programs. “That simply sounds outrageous,” he says.

Full financial-aid types as early as attainable—and ask a few college’s financial-aid insurance policies

Given income pressures on faculties, it’s doubtless that at many colleges, notably these with smaller endowments, the financial-aid funds received’t be as massive as in earlier years, specialists say. The financial downturn may put state financial-aid packages in danger.

In some circumstances, these initiatives, notably the state support packages, are first come, first served. The sooner households are capable of submit their financial-aid info to schools, the extra doubtless they’re to get a solution earlier in regards to the form of award they could obtain.

Along with submitting early,

Danny Ruderman

, an unbiased school counselor based mostly in Los Angeles, suggests households name the financial-aid workplaces of the universities they’re all for to learn how their financial-aid insurance policies could have modified in mild of the pandemic. In some circumstances, faculties that may afford it have elevated their financial-aid budgets to assist households whose monetary circumstances have modified cope.

Each week, Scot Marken spends about 15 hours calling financial-aid officers and college-admissions representatives probing for the knowledge crucial to make sure that by spring his daughter, Hannah, could have an choice for school that she’s enthusiastic about and that the household can afford.

“I don’t wish to get my hopes up an excessive amount of about faculties that aren’t attainable,” says Hannah Marken, whose father, Scot Marken, spends about 15 hours per week calling financial-aid and college-admissions workplaces.


Stephen Voss for The Wall Road Journal

“I’m a spreadsheet form of man,” Mr. Marken says, explaining his strategy to the method. When his son, who began school in fall 2020, was making use of, the pair’s exhaustive analysis led them to a listing of colleges that have been inexpensive and match his son’s wants.

Now, Mr. Marken is adapting his strategy to the appliance course of for his daughter, who’s a senior in highschool. He’s asking questions like whether or not public faculties to which his daughter is making use of out of state supply need-based support to out-of-state college students and if that’s the case, whether or not they meet the identical proportion of want as for in-state college students.

Mr. Marken can also be asking some questions which are explicit to the pandemic period. For example, he needs to know whether or not a school is planning to satisfy the identical proportion of want this yr as in earlier years, given income pressures.

It has been disappointing to take away faculties from her checklist as a result of they’re not financially possible,

Hannah Marken

says. Nonetheless, the method has helped her have a look at different alternatives, together with faculties which have a big scholarship accessible for one thing she matches the factors for.

“I’m being extra lifelike,” Ms. Marken says. “I don’t wish to get my hopes up an excessive amount of about faculties that aren’t attainable.”

Eva McGregor Dodds

, a Detroit area-based school counselor, says she has discovered school admissions and financial-aid workplaces to be extra receptive to the kind of communication Mr. Marken and others are enterprise this yr. “They’re not on the highway,” visiting excessive faculties to lure candidates, she says, in order that they have extra time to answer questions from dad and mom and candidates.

Clarify from the beginning how your monetary circumstances have modified

The Free Software for Federal Scholar Support, which is used to evaluate monetary want, pulls a household’s monetary info from two tax years prior. In different phrases, college students making use of to attend school in fall 2021 could have their monetary want assessed based mostly on info from 2019 tax returns.

Share Your Ideas

Inform us how Covid-19 has altered your college-application course of for this fall. Be part of the dialog under.

However for a lot of households, the power to pay for school appears very totally different in 2020 than it did in 2019. If that’s the case, they need to be ready to clarify any particular circumstances up entrance, even earlier than they obtain an support supply, specialists say.

That’s the strategy Mr. Marken is taking. He has labored on the government stage within the nonprofit area and wrapped up a long-term consulting job proper as shutdown orders began settling in throughout the nation. “It’s been very troublesome to get a job throughout Covid,” he says.

“One factor that I’ve been endorsed to do is to go forward and when my daughter applies on the similar time ship in a letter to monetary support asking for skilled judgment assessment,” he says.

Mark Kantrowitz, the writer of, suggests households checklist every particular circumstance—for instance, a job loss or household medical occasion, together with these associated to Covid-19—which will necessitate an attraction, describe it and clarify the monetary impression of the job loss or different change. As well as, he advises households to connect copies of any documentation that might assist bolster their declare. Households can do that at any time, although it’s best to supply a college with this info after they’ve already despatched of their financial-aid types.

SwiftStudent, a device launched earlier this yr by the nonprofit Seldin/Haring-Smith Basis, helps candidates populate letters they will use to attraction for extra monetary support.

Make school lists with negotiation in thoughts

Even earlier than the pandemic, faculties have been bracing for a drop in enrollment attributable to demographic tendencies. That, mixed with uncertainty surrounding whether or not college students could proceed to delay enrollment, implies that “faculties should be scrambling round greater than ever to get children to fill their seats,” says

Andy Lockwood

, a Lengthy Island-based college-admissions and financial-aid guide.

For households who can afford to pay near-full tuition, that dynamic might present a possibility to barter. On condition that they should meet enrollment and income targets, faculties are desperate to enroll college students who pays near or full freight. Maybe counterintuitively, to attract these households, faculties will supply reductions within the type of benefit support. Although they received’t get the complete tuition from these households, they’ll doubtless get extra money from them than they’d a household with extra monetary want.

One of many keys to negotiating efficiently is to use to schools in an analogous peer group—for instance, two faculties with distinctive communications packages—Mr. Lockwood says, after which, “mercilessly and ruthlessly play them off one another if you get presents.”

A consent decree reached final yr between the Justice Division and the Nationwide Affiliation for School Admission Counseling will doubtless additionally give households a bonus. Prior to now, faculties, via the member affiliation, agreed to not try to poach college students who had already dedicated elsewhere after Might 1, when faculties historically requested college students to make deposits. Now faculties are capable of supply reductions and different incentives to attract college students away from rival faculties.

Rethink the early-decision route

College students who apply early choice usually make a binding dedication to the varsity to attend if accepted. Meaning they provide up the chance to see what different financial-aid presents can be found and will lock themselves into a college that prices greater than what they will afford when it comes time to enroll.

“Until you understand the place you actually, actually wish to go or funds should not a priority, this yr could also be a greater yr to attend,” says

Jeffrey Selingo

, the creator of “Who Will get In and Why: A 12 months Inside School Admissions.” That isn’t solely to provide households sufficient time to evaluate their very own monetary state of affairs, he says, but in addition as a result of by the point March, April or Might come round, faculties “may be barely extra determined to enroll college students and may supply extra money later within the spring than they’d have in different years.”

Making use of to a school early motion permits college students to submit their functions and obtain a solution to them early within the software cycle with out requiring them to decide to the varsity. That may be an excellent choice for college kids this yr, Mr. Selingo says. Since faculties could also be nervous about filling their lessons this yr, he estimates that they could recruit and settle for extra early-action candidates than typical.

“It’s nearly just like the NFL draft, you choose the gamers you need essentially the most, first,” he says.

However even when college students obtain an acceptance letter and financial-aid bundle early, they need to wait to commit till they’ve had an opportunity to check presents, Mr. Selingo says.

Ms. Marken is planning to submit 10 early-action functions subsequent month. She and Mr. Marken talked in regards to the thought of making use of early choice however decided it wasn’t possible largely as a result of they couldn’t commit financially to a faculty so early within the course of.

This summer season and fall, Ms. Marken had been making an attempt to maintain to a schedule of finishing a number of essays per week, however in late September she was identified with Covid-19, delaying her progress, she says.

She says she felt fortunate that her signs have been comparatively gentle, however they nonetheless required her to overlook a few of her distant lessons and assessments. Her lecturers have been very accommodating, she says. Nonetheless, “I don’t wish to fall behind,” she provides. “That may have an effect on my semester grades and I’m afraid of how which may impression my acceptance to these faculties.”

Decide how an absence of standardized testing might impression benefit scholarships

Greater than two-thirds of U.S. four-year faculties and universities received’t require college students to submit SAT or ACT check scores as a part of their software this cycle, in response to the Nationwide Heart for Honest & Open Testing Inc., a company that advocates for test-optional insurance policies at faculties.

Nonetheless, some specialists say if college students are capable of take standardized assessments they need to.

Mimi Doe

, the co-founder of Prime Tier Admissions, an unbiased college-counseling service, says admissions officers are on the lookout for recent knowledge, on condition that so many excessive faculties switched to a cross/fail grading system within the spring. College students who stay inside an hour of an accessible testing website ought to take the check, she says.

Though at many colleges college students might be able to be evaluated for admission with out the assessments, they may play a job in figuring out merit-aid awards, Mr. Lockwood says. He advises college students to take a seat for the check, “simply to provide your self that arrow within the quiver.”

Mr. Selingo suggests households ask a financial-aid workplace particularly whether or not they’ll be utilizing a standardized-test rating to guage college students for benefit support.

Mr. Hicks says he isn’t keen to take the possibility. He’s sending standardized-test scores to the colleges the place he plans to use, a listing that features traditionally black faculties and universities in addition to faculties with spectacular enterprise packages which are close to his hometown. “If in case you have an opportunity in your space” to take the check, “you may as nicely attempt to take it as finest as you possibly can,” he says. “I really feel like it could be a lift to have it now.”

Mr. Hicks says he was capable of take the SAT final November free via his college. He took the SAT once more throughout the pandemic; he wore a masks whereas finishing the check and had his temperature taken on the door.

Rethink housing

Households could wish to rethink how they strategy housing. Many faculties have provided freshmen the flexibleness to stay off campus or at house this fall, an choice Ms. Dodds expects can be accessible for college kids getting into school in fall 2021. If that’s the case, and a pupil is contemplating a big public school the place a lot of the coed physique lives off campus, it may be extra inexpensive to pay for an off-campus residence as an alternative of a dorm.

Nonetheless, households ought to keep in mind that if college students stay off-campus, they doubtless received’t be capable to break leases with their landlords if lessons change into distant. Meaning they may wind up paying lease for months once they don’t stay within the residence.

Hold your choices open

As college students put together their school lists, they need to be engaged on parallel paths: one, that if the pandemic subsides by fall 2021, will supply an in-person residential-college expertise; and a second that gives an alternate if in-person attendance is shut down or scaled again.

Meaning high-school seniors needs to be taking a look at various choices together with neighborhood school for a semester, a gap-year program or accessible paid work. That approach, if in fall 2021 it appears like in-person studying can be distant or restricted, college students have a extra inexpensive, distant choice accessible.

“It makes me really feel higher that I might nonetheless hold my plan,” Michelle Dang says of including a neighborhood school with a nursing program to her college checklist, in case distant lessons prolong into subsequent yr.


Howard Dang

Households needs to be cognizant of how some alternate options might have an effect on monetary support, nonetheless. College students who earn too many community-college credit, as an illustration, might not be thought-about a freshman for financial-aid functions at some faculties, even whether it is their first yr, says

Anna Ivey

, an unbiased college-admissions guide. Some faculties supply much less monetary support to switch college students than those that are first-time freshmen.

Up till a few month in the past,

Michelle Dang

was fairly sure she would proceed along with her unique college-application plan, regardless of the pandemic. The 17-year-old’s objective is to attend California State College-Fullerton to check nursing. However one in every of her lecturers urged her to consider the likelihood that lessons nonetheless could also be provided remotely subsequent yr.

Now, along with faculties like Cal State-Fullerton, Ms. Dang, who lives in Riverside, Calif., says she’s making use of to her area people school. “I don’t know if I wish to pay a lot for varsity that’s going to be on-line,” she says.

Ms. Dang says she additionally was drawn to the community-college choice as a result of the varsity she’s contemplating has an excellent nursing program.

“It makes me really feel higher that I might nonetheless hold my plan,” Ms. Dang says.

Ms. Berman is a reporter for in New York. You’ll be able to e-mail her at [email protected].

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