How COVID-19 Affects College Decisions for High School Seniors


Ali Bauer, Currents Section Editor

May 1st is the annual college “Decision Day” for high school seniors. On May 1st, most colleges require students to formally commit to attending their institution in the fall, including making an initial deposit. The students who applied to college early action and early decision and got accepted are virtually unaffected by the recent corona outbreak in terms of their school selection. On the other hand, the students who were relying on later release dates for their universities may face more corona related complications.

By April, most seniors planning on continuing their academic careers have heard back from the majority of schools to which they applied. Typically, students presented with more than one appealing offer will tour each school to determine whether they think it will be a good fit. This year, though, students are not given that option; college campuses are now closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, preventing high school seniors from seeing their campuses. Problems arise as time continues moving towards May 1st, and there is little to no hope of schools reopening to welcome these accepted seniors. Instead, many of these seniors are forced to make their college decision based on what they have heard and seen about these schools online. Everyone has a different perspective and description of what they seek in a school, so basing all opinions of a school on what others value can, unfortunately, distract high school seniors from what they are really looking for.

In addition, for students who are still unsure of where they are attending college next fall, a decline in the stock market could greatly influence their future. For many students, the cost of a college can determine which institution they attend, since most people prefer to avoid paying off years of debts. Due to many forced business closures as a result of corona safety precautions, many students are being urged by their parents to choose state schools or less expensive universities. For the bright students who were accepted into their somewhat costly dream college, an impactful decision needs to be made. Would sending them to an in-state university be a  better decision for the family as a whole? Or should they take the risk and reward the years of hard work put in by the student? Families around the nation are tasked with finding solutions to these unanswerable questions by trying to prioritize their needs and desires.

Furthermore, more students are trending towards wanting to attend college closer to home due to the pandemic. Many families are concerned that there could be a resurgence of the virus in the fall, so being closer to home would provide a nearby refuge. For students who choose to attend colleges a plane ride away, a resurgence of COVID-19 could mean being stuck in a distant state or country until air travel is deemed safe again. Being quarantined with your family is hard enough, but being away from all of your loved ones is even harder. Ultimately, families are generally trying to make decisions now to reduce their risks after schools start back up in the fall.

With that, many students are choosing to strategically avoid areas that are densely infected with CoronaVirus cases. For example, students who fantasized about an education at NYU may be recently deterred since New York currently has more cases of COVID-19 than any one country in the world (other than the United States of course). Individuals can hope that the CoronaVirus hysteria will pass by next fall, but with the present uncertainty, many families deem it smarter to send their kids to locations with fewer cases in an effort to prioritize safety.

On a more positive note, some students feel that the surplus of free time associated with CoronaVirus precautions has actually helped them in their college decision. Radnor High School Senior Kylie Slupe explains, “I would say that this quarantine benefited my college decision process because of all the spare time I had. Although all of my admitted student days were canceled, my parents and I had time to drive around the campuses. I didn’t see any students, but I got a feel for the schools and the area surrounding them. I also had plenty of time to sort out the pros and cons of each school. Before the quarantine, I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to think through the decision. With all of the extra time from the quarantine, I was able to come to a decision and I’ve never felt so relieved. The CoronaVirus took away so many of my senior experiences, but it gave me time to think about my future and I’m feeling very hopeful.”

All in all, it is evident that COVID-19 has impacted a large part of the Class of 2020’s future plans. With the termination date of the virus still unknown, speculations and precautionary actions are being taken to protect the safety of as many students as possible, even if it means modifying where students end up. As the May 1st deadline approaches, seniors are frantically rethinking and revising their decisions. One thing is certain: everyone is saddened by the losses brought on by the CoronaVirus and wishes the best for the Class of 2020!