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Moving Forward in College and Career in the Time of COVID-19

on June 25, 2020
by Meredith Curry

If you are wondering what the new normal will look like, we’re all wondering the same thing. You had plans for the fall and you’re staying the course, you’ve changed your plans, or you’re in the throes of figuring out just how much those plans will change.

If you’re committed to starting college in the fall, expect others to join you! About 42% of students in a recent survey will not delay under any circumstances. Another survey from April shows that 17% of respondents are weighing a delayed enrollment to a four-year college until spring 2021. We’re also seeing that confidence to stay on track to college persists.

At Moneythink, we have your back. We want you to feel confident that, although the options may look different at least in the near future, there are still solid opportunities with the choice being yours to make. Here’s what you may be considering:

I’m still waiting to make a decision since other colleges have extended their deadlines. How do I make my choice?

student looking straight on the camera

Option #1. Accept for fall 2020 or spring 2021 and prepare for a potential virtual or hybrid experience.

Whatever the new normal looks like, colleges are getting ready for you! According to a recent report, 70% of colleges set up COVID-19 student necessity/emergency funds for their students as they prepare for the coming fall semester. While some colleges know their plans for the fall, others are still coordinating. “The majority of colleges and universities have not made a decision on the mode of instruction for fall,” and we expect this because the nature of COVID-19 is evolving across the country.

According to a recent report, 70% of colleges set up COVID-19 student necessity/emergency funds for their students as they prepare for the coming fall semester.

There is information out there so be sure to read it. Have any questions? Ask your high school counselors or local college access providers like Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, or local organizations like Making Waves, One Goal, Richmond Promise, and ScholarMatch.

If you’re thinking about taking a break for a semester or a year, “institutions are giving students the option to defer enrollment to later in the fall or to spring 2021.” Be sure to check with your intended college on their specific policy.

Option #2. Defer for a year — if your college allows it.

There are many reasons you may wish to defer, from staying home to help family, to taking the time to rethink your educational goals and plans. When you defer (also called taking a gap year), you plan to enroll in the next academic year (2021) in a college you were accepted to this year. Here are some things to know about deferring admission at your college:

  • The college needs to accept deferment.
  • Colleges maintain different policies to grant deferrals.
  • Some colleges require you to describe how you will use your gap year.

Contact your college to learn more about their process to be sure that deferral is a real option for you. Global Citizen Year has useful information on gap years. 

Option #3. Do not accept any colleges this year and reapply next year.

With this option, you’re not taking an official gap year. Instead, you are foregoing all of this year’s college acceptances and choosing to apply again for next year, fall 2021.

However, it gets harder to enroll in college the longer you wait, so be sure you have a plan. Choosing this option gives you a chance to reconsider and rebuild your list — and decide which colleges you will reapply to during your year off. To keep you organized, let us support you! Join our mailing list and we’ll tell you when our tool DecidED comes out. You can use DecidED to track your colleges, upload your financial aid award letters, and easily compare which colleges are affordable and the best fit for your needs!

Likewise, if you do choose to forego your college plans this year altogether, we highly suggest that you use your time wisely with work or volunteering, applying to scholarships, and focusing on activities that help you grow, enhance your skills, and extend your experiences and networks. Consider programs like City Year and Year Up who have rolling application deadlines and can give you hands-on training in real-world pathways, starting this fall.

Whichever of the three options you take now, keep in mind that there are trade offs that you’ll have to weigh. Remember that, in the end, going to college typically means increasing your earnings. College graduates, on average, will earn roughly $900,000 more than the typical high school graduate during the course of their working life, which is why going to college is a financially smart option. When you push college back a year, you are trading your post college earning potential for whatever you may earn during your year off. Whatever that tradeoff is to you, think critically, do your homework, and commit to your decision.

College graduates, on average, will earn roughly $900,000 more than the typical high school graduate during the course of their working life

To make smart financial decisions, consider affordability in your choice! Check out our Financial Aid Guide for steps on Using Awards to Calculate Cost of Attendance. For a visual tutorial, view a recording of our webinar below or download the full video here. Whatever your college decides and when they decide it, prepare to adapt to the situation, and commit to making the most of your college experience. You got this! 

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