What High School Seniors Need to Know About Choosing Their College in 2021

By March 17, 2021April 23rd, 2021Special Circumstances
10 Resources for Making Your College Decision from Home during COVID-19

This is usually an exciting time for high school seniors. The last round of college admissions decisions roll in as students and parents busily figure out how to choose which campus to attend by May 1st. Many plan to visit campuses during spring break, attend admitted student events in their hometowns or on campus, and even stay overnight in a dorm and attend classes for a day.

We had hoped many of these activities would be available for the high school class of 2021, but we have been disappointed. Some colleges have no students on campus at all, and virtually none are “business as usual,” which is exactly what you hope to see in order to make your decision. Even campuses that are offering tours do not allow families inside buildings, and I am not aware of any that are allowing class visits or meals in the dining hall, let alone overnights in the dorms.

So, just like last year, many of these traditional methods of making the final decision are not available. But unlike last year, colleges are ready for this situation and have lots of resources to help you make your big decision.

Colleges Will Make Admissions Work for You

  1. First, remember that colleges need students and, in fact, cannot exist without them, so they will find ways to help students and families through this unusual time.
  2. Colleges are going to be flexible and understanding. Some have announced that admitted students will have until June 1st or later instead of the usual May 1st to commit to a campus, and I encourage you to contact admissions offices if you need more time.
  3. Colleges are doing their best to offer resources and personal support to help you make your decision. (More on this below.)

10 Resources for Making Your College Decision from Home

I understand that online research and virtual tours can’t replicate in-person experiences, but luckily, there are now abundant resources to help sort through your options from home. And remember that many high school students around the country do not have the opportunity to visit campuses, and see their college for the first time during first-year student orientation, and go on to thrive there!

  1. Refresh your priorities: Think back to when you first began your college search. What were the priorities that helped you form that list? Are they still the same, or would you adjust them a bit now? Write down your 3 – 5 most important criteria.
  2. Back to basics: Review your original research. When did you last read your favorite college guidebook or website? Review whatever research resources originally helped you build your list. How about a good, old-fashioned pro and con list, or even a detailed spreadsheet comparing all the aspects you care about for each college?
  3. Data: Do you love to crunch numbers? Use some resources to compare costs, graduation rates, retention rates, degrees awarded, and much more. Here are two sites to get you started: CollegeData and College Navigator – National Center for Education Statistics.
  4. Social media: I know you might not spend much time on Facebook, but join the admitted student groups for each college (make sure they are the official ones) and see who is planning to attend. Some students even find roommates that way! Also, jump onto Instagram and Twitter feeds for the schools and enrolled students. There are usually many different accounts for each school, so follow admissions plus a few others that interest you.
  5. Virtual campus tours: Look for a link on the college website, use Campus Reels, or watch YouTube videos.
  6. College admissions Offices: Search for announcements for organized virtual tours and special admitted student events. (They may already be in your emails!) Contact your regional admissions representative to ask what they are planning and for their recommendation on how best to experience the college virtually. See if they can connect you with a student through Zoom or FaceTime.
  7. College websites: Do a deep dive into curriculum requirements and co-curricular opportunities for your major or interest areas. If you’re undecided, investigate advising resources or programs for undecided students, and general education requirements. Head to the student life section and learn about student organizations.
  8. Your network: Talk to people you know or friends of friends of friends who have attended, and ask them the hard questions about what is worrying you, or the questions you have not been able to get answered. Remember that a lot of college students are home early this year, so they are probably available to talk to you.
  9. Your team: Talk to your school counselor, your parents, older siblings and friends, and anyone else whose experience could provide insight. 
  10. You: Most critically, remember that the most important determinant of your college experience is you, and what you make of the opportunities on your campus. Believe it or not, you will probably have a wonderful four years at any of the schools you’ve applied to. 

Although the last year has shown us that we control fewer aspects of our lives than we though, that does not mean you are powerless. Take some control of making this exciting decision from the comfort of your sofa! Dig into these resources, and you might be surprised by how much you enjoy your process of discovery.

If you still feel stuck or need help with your specific situation, please contact me for a phone or Zoom session.

Author Stephanie Meade

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