College decisions prove uncertain for the fall semester

May 8, 2020

As COVID-19 leaves its monumental mark on the world, it disrupts everything in its path. From the highly anticipated end of the school year to the beginning of a peaceful summer, COVID-19 destroyed everyone’s short-term plans. Yet, even as it seems matters can not get any worse, our current global situation gives rise to a new long-term problem.

After finally making it past the college process bend, all seniors want is a relaxed transition into the next chapter of their lives. However, with COVID-19, many students are denied that opportunity.

Across the country, rising college freshmen are realizing the effects COVD-19 will have on their first semester at college. There is already speculation of schools shutting down because of the pandemic. Now, anxiety runs high as students figure out their next course of action for the future, due to COVID-19 keeping students at home and away from colleges.

In a recent survey done by Scoir, now used by Westford Academy, students and parents across the country provided insight into the college changes their families made as a result of COVID-19.

provided by Scoir
A survey done by Scoir shows the COVID-19 changes families are making.

The survey shows the physical and financial impact of COVID-19 on the families of seniors. Many families are struggling with their student’s tuition because of the economic impact the pandemic is having on the world. Families want their students to study closer to home, hoping to keep their children safer and the tuition cheaper.

Throughout the media, rumors are circulating about the impending cancellations of the in-person fall semester. Despite many schools denying these claims, some schools like California State University, Fullerton already released plans for an online fall semester.

Even as some colleges release statements regarding the 2020-2021 school year, many are unaware of their plans going forward. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing every day, colleges are having a hard time making decisions for the fall semester. Twink Williams Burns, a college counselor at Williams College, understands the unpredictable transition high school students have to make for the fall semester.

“I think [an online semester] is a question every college is asking. Should we see this, I expect we’ll see nationally a record number of students taking a gap year into next year, whether that be because they prefer to be on campus and know that it is safe or if it’s financial reasons. At Williams, I have no idea what is going to happen. I think we really thrive being in a residential setting. I can see our students deciding to stay home until they can have that experience again. We have tried to be really creative through this process. We are going to try to accommodate what the students want,” Williams Burns said.

Seniors are still scared for the future, regardless of college efforts. The added pressure of an online school possibility is a lot to handle with the standard stress from college decisions.

Pixabay (Pexels)
College doors welcome their students into the knowledgeable campus.

For Westford Academy senior Shelly Singal, the biggest source of anxiety surrounding the situation is the college itself. Singhal was only able to tour a handful of colleges before COVID-19 hit the United States. She remembers feeling hopeless at the start of April since many colleges needed her to commit in less than two months. However, Singhal pushed through and ended up committing to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“Once I narrowed my schools to the top three, I had only visited one of them which made it extremely hard to decide. I utilized every virtual tour and event for my schools but it’s just not the same. Statistics and school information can only do so much. If I am being completely honest, it is possible that my ultimate decision may have had a different outcome if I had been able to visit all the schools. I have spoken to other classmates and even though they visited their school before applying, it was still tough. It’s been quite a confusing and sad time for everyone solely because of the abrupt end and having to make these life-changing decisions on top of that has been hard,” Singhal said.

Other students are more fearful for their future plans. A large number of students go into college knowing a version of their five-year plan. With COVID-19 changing the future for college students, high school seniors are worried about their long-term goals. Westford Academy senior Kavya Desikan made the decision to defer from her first semester at the University of Maryland since she does not intend to start her collegiate academic career online.

“I’m mainly frustrated, generally because I just don’t know what that future of getting my degree holds, especially since my university is a densely populated state school, so for us going to campus poses a greater risk. My college has been okay about all of this, but I do wish there were more updates and resources about our next year,” Desikan said.

Knowing there is a huge possibility for an online semester, Desikan focuses on figuring out her next step, whether it be at home or out-of-state.

“Deferring is really gonna mess up how I plan on completing my classes, just because I’ll have to make up classes in the summer or winter. I also am currently jobless since the job I was acquiring with the US Census is on hold. If I defer, and stuff is getting back to normal, I may either get an internship in Boston and work there or move to Maryland and seek internships,” Desikan said.

energepic.com (Pexels)
The stock market is constantly fluctuating.

Speaking from an economic perspective, some students do not have the luxury to choose whether they want to defer or not. Big and small businesses alike closed due to COVID-19, leaving a large percentage of citizens unemployed in the United States. For others, the stock market causes fear.

College is a large investment for families all across the country. Students do not want to make their families pay for an education that is subpar. Instead of paying for online classes, students would rather save their money until the COVID-19 pandemic eases. If COVID-19 was not an issue, Westford Academy senior Garrett Jacobsmeier would be attending the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the fall. However, the pandemic now gives Jacobsmeier a new, confusing outlook on his future.

“My family and I believe that starting freshman year off online for a number of months would be a waste of the first year of college. They would rather have me take a gap year of some sort. However, this thought is almost impossible to plan, because I have no idea how my school will function in the fall. I have been in contact with my school about when they will let us know about drastic changes, and they have absolutely no idea. They also don’t know if I would be able to defer admission in 2020 that late, because the decisions they make about classes starting wouldn’t come for a long time. This puts me in the situation of just having to pay a non-refundable enrollment deposit with no answers about when school will actually start, or if I will actually be attending at that time,” said Jacobsmeier.

The situation calls for every high school senior going to college to reevaluate their arrangements. Whether it be delaying college plans or ending the year abruptly, COVID-19 made its biggest impact on the Class of 2020.

Westford Academy Class of 2020 secretary Lucy Xiao understands the significant losses her class faced this year, and possibly may face next school year. She wants her class to hold their heads up high and learn from this experience. Xiao believes there is a light at the end of this disastrous tunnel, and she has full trust in everything working out in the end, even if the future seems daunting right now.

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking and upsetting. So many things that we’ve looked forward to, such as move-in-day, are up in the air and there’s no saying when things will go back to “normal.” I think a lot of my peers are probably looking forward to the first semester of college since we’ve been hit with so much bad news like no prom and Disney. The thought of having the first semester of college being virtual is even more upsetting. Hopefully, something good comes out of this,” Xiao said.

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