The Coronavirus and College Admissions:


Uncertainty and Trepidation: Part 2

By: Joseph Corace | Last Updated: April 22, 2020

In an interview posted on, under the title “Navigating college admissions amid Coronavirus pandemic,” Robert Massa, who teaches about higher education at the University of Southern California and is a former admissions dean from Johns Hopkins University and Dickinson College, offered these thoughts, among others, on how the COVID-19 pandemic could affect a student’s quest to attend the school of their choice.

stop watch1. More Time

Due to the uncertainties surrounding the health and financial implications of the pandemic, many colleges will not have filled their classes by the traditional May 1 deadline. Colleges that are concerned about not meeting their numerical enrollment goals will likely be flexible in allowing students to apply, even at this late date.

To give students more time to visit and consider other factors, a number of colleges have pushed back their deposit deadline to June 1. For the most part, these are schools that historically have not filled their class by May 1. The more selective institutions are keeping the May 1 candidates reply date.

If you have a deposit deadline from one school that is May 1 and another that is June 1, and you need more time to decide, appeal to the May 1 school to give you more time. Depending on how close that college is to filling its class, it may be flexible.

better shot2. A better shot

If a student has applied to one of the most selective, strongest universities – which represent less than 4% of the four-year public and nonprofit private colleges in the U.S. – they will be just as hard to get into, at least initially, as they’ve been in the past. Those schools are, however, likely to have longer wait lists this year, primarily because of the uncertainty surrounding international students and whether they will be able to travel to the U.S. And if they can’t, more students may be admitted from the waitlist than in past years.

But, if students have applied to one of the vast majority of the other selective colleges – including the 16% that admit between a fifth and half of their applicants – it is likely to be somewhat easier to get in for several reasons.

Because of the economic consequences of Coronavirus, as many as a fifth of students think they may have to abandon their first choice college to attend a school that is more affordable, according to a survey conducted in March. In addition, that survey found that a college closer to home would be a more viable choice than a first-choice institution for 35% of students. Taking these factors into consideration, colleges are likely to admit more students than they did last year because they expect that more of their admitted students will ultimately opt to stay closer to home or to attend a more affordable school.

save money3. Bigger Scholarships

Colleges are worried that the health calamities and concerns and the economic fallout from the pandemic will result in more students declining admission offers. For this reason, I believe colleges will be likely to offer students more money in an effort to get them to enroll. The competition for student enrollments will be intense.

Schools may offer bigger scholarships to students who decline an opportunity to enroll. That’s because last September, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling settled an antitrust lawsuit with the Department of Justice, thereby allowing colleges to recruit students who had already committed to attend another institution by awarding them more money. Previously, the association’s ethics code had forbidden this kind of poaching.

Consequently, students may have to decide whether to stick with the original school they selected, even if it doesn’t offer as much tuition help.

4. More need-based aid may be available

aidIf a family is affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19, they may appeal for additional need-based financial aid. The financial aid system estimates parents’ ability to pay on income that was earned two years ago. Due to COVID-19, income earned in the first quarter of 2020 may not predict a family’s total 2020 income. For that reason, it will be important for families to work with the financial aid office of the colleges on their list to help them take a lower family income into account when calculating the family’s eligibility for financial aid. It is important for families to explain the need for more financial aid during the application process or certainly pre-deposit – not after a paying an enrollment deposit.

A recent post titled “Coronavirus Pandemic Has College-Bound Students, Parents Rethinking Higher Education Decisions” on cited a national flash survey that was conducted to understand how the COVID-19 outbreak could affect college enrollment patterns for high school seniors. It reported that:

Families’ fears have heightened due to the COVID-19 outbreak — particularly for prospective parents and students who will be first-year students in the fall of 2020. Families across the country are rethinking their final college decision.

The survey results showed that 25.7% of respondents are rethinking their college choice due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Thirty percent of parents are slightly more inclined to rethink their high school senior's college choice.

Students were only 23.6% more likely to change their college decision, and 12.6% of families are considering deferring their acceptance for a year so they can attend their first choice, according to the survey.

The previously-cited post states that

Amid school closures and lock-downs, many high-school seniors are switching up their immediate plans, the survey found. Of the 17 percent of respondents who didn’t think they would end up enrolling full time at a four-year college, a majority expected either to take a gap year (35 percent) or enroll part time in a bachelor’s program (35 percent). Seven percent indicated that they would attend a community college, and 6 percent said they would work full time.

Just 20 percent of students were confident that they would attend their first-choice college. “While we know there is always flux this time of year as students are getting their admissions notifications,” Goebel [Craig Goebel, a principal at the Art & Science Group] said, “it surprised us that more weren’t expecting to enroll at their first choice.”

Respondents who said they weren’t confident that they could choose the college atop their list (63 percent) cited various concerns. The most prevalent was cost: Twenty-one percent of those students said their “first-choice school may no longer be affordable for my family” because of the Coronavirus. And 12 percent said either they or a family member had health concerns that required them to change their plans.


tutorIt’s clear that the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic are broad and unanticipated, and the ways in which it might affect you may vary considerably from the ways it affects other students and their families. We want to lessen the “unanticipated.” You’re welcome to turn to us for help in deciding how you’ll meet the challenges that face you: Score At The Top was founded by its current principal, Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner who has over 30 years of experience in helping students and their families reach their education goals.

And we stand ready to help you plan for tomorrow’s sunrise.


Topics: College Admission Test-Prep College Counseling College Planning Coronavirus


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