Universities are facing the long lasting impact of COVID-19 on their budgets, student enrollments, and every part of their operations. This will impact students applying and current students enrolling in a variety of ways. 

University recruitment and enrollment models have been essentially turned on their heads and universities are scrambling. Universities are scrambling to understand how COVID will affect enrollment numbers and conducting ongoing surveys to assess the ways parent and student college planning has changed as a result of the pandemic. 

Here’s the reality universities are facing for new/current students:

  1. Colleges expect enrollment numbers to fall 25-30%. This will be particularly a tough pill to swallow for less selective schools already having difficulty with enrollment numbers and may spell the end of many small colleges with limited endowments. Long struggling colleges like Hampshire College and John Carroll may face the end.
  2. Colleges will need to overhaul their GPA calculations as high schools across the country approach the spring 2020 semester with both pass/fall and letter grading.
  3. Cancelled testing means that many universities are choosing to be test optional.
  4. Schools have fewer students accepting their offers and are working waitlists very hard.
  5. Some are predicting no or few international student applications.
  6. Others are expecting few applications from students in states farther than a 5 hour drive.
  7. Parents are expecting 20-30% discounts if schools decide to continue with virtual/hybrid methods.
  8. More students adversely affected financially by COVID will require increased aid or drop out altogether.
  9. Colleges are working overtime to make sure they are able to continue recruiting the students that will be able to enroll and afford tuition. 
  10. Finding open air spaces for students. Stanford is exploring tent classrooms, for example.
  11. 15 hybrid models of returning to school. Many are frontloading class hours to enable students to log enough time in the classroom to be eligible for credit hours in case of COVID resurgence. 
  12. Working to offer students singles or double dorm rooms with their own bathrooms and expanding residence halls to hotels, with whom they are currently negotiating. 

Students applying this year will be impacted in many ways. Here’s how:

  1. It will be easier to apply than ever before with minimal testing requirements. Yet, this will also make it harder for universities to filter students and may make it harder for many deserving students to get in. 
  2. More schools will fill their cohorts in early action or early decision. 
  3. Without grades, students with softer transcripts and less than desirable grades will have fewer opportunities to strengthen their profile on their transcript
  4. The PASS/FAIL semester at some schools is also offering students who were falling behind in their classes the opportunity to catch up.
  5. Deposit deadlines will be extended beyond May 1, June 1 and even further.
  6. More students are planning to take gap years or not apply to college at all.  Students this year will matriculate next year, possibly leaving fewer spots for next year’s seniors.
  7. Students can expect larger and longer waitlists. Schools expect “student melt” for a variety of reasons-difficulty finding funding to attend or securing visas for enrolled students. 
  8. No/few in-person tours. Tours and information sessions have moved online.
  9. For most juniors, the competition that secures spots for selective schools


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