Dear Seniors and Parents,
I have waited longer than usual to write this letter of congratulations to my outstanding seniors simply because I wanted to gather more information about institutional plans for the fall of 2020.
But first things first: I am so proud of each one of you. Congratulations on all the hard work you put into your college search/applications and your dedication to doing well academically in your high school classes. I think each of you has found a college home where you can be happy and prosper in every way.
As you look to the fall, I know there is a lot of uncertainty that frankly is beyond your or my control. We don’t know what will happen in three weeks, much less by the end of the summer. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve read a lot of articles and participated in webinars with admissions officers around the country addressing the effects of the pandemic on higher education and plans for fall 2020.
Most admissions officers compare their plans to “building a bridge as we walk across it” or “building an airplane that is already in the air.” While every college is wrestling with a multitude of “what if” scenarios and strategies, here are some general observations I have heard from admissions officers across the country:
- College openings in the fall will be dictated by state, federal, and public health guidelines first and foremost. In some states, it will be easier to open campuses than others. Of course, institutions in New York City are likely to have the most difficulty in opening schools.
- Smaller colleges, particularly those in more rural areas, are more likely to open their campuses with a variety of social distancing measures in place. These might include single dorm rooms, classes staggered in terms of start times to control student traffic on campus; larger introductory courses conducted virtually; the requirement to wear face masks on campus, and so forth.
- Many campuses have already decided to have all classes conducted remotely (California State University campuses, for example) with no students on campus. For now, other colleges plan to have students on campus and offer only remote classes. Still, others will conduct smaller, in-person courses, and larger, introductory classes will be provided virtually.
- Residential housing will be the most challenging because most college campuses have limited single rooms, and dorm rooms will need to be reconfigured to allow for social distancing. Some universities may limit on-campus residential housing and choose to house students in hotel space and other off-campus housing.
- Notre Dame and several other schools publicly announced plans to bring students to campus, but start the school year in early August and end by Thanksgiving. Then, depending on public health concerns, remote classes could be offered in the second semester.
- This year, the waitlist is likely to be very active and fluid on most college campuses due to the pandemic and families facing financial difficulties or worried about the safety of a student attending college in some regions of the country. Some suggest that the waitlist could be active until 8/15 (the NACAC deadline).
For those on college waitlists, think carefully about accepting an offer of admission off the waitlist late in the summer. If you have given careful consideration to the reasons you chose your current college home and are happy with your decision, don’t change your plans at the last minute.
I know it is difficult to deal with the uncertainty you all face right now, but I encourage you to be flexible, patient, and guardedly optimistic. The next year is excellent training for life and how to deal with adversity in its many forms. I know all of you eventually will have an amazing, but different college experience. Someday, you’ll be able to tell your kids about the Pandemic of 2020 and how it changed your life and made you dearly value your family, friends and appreciate the important things in life.
You are all rock stars, in my opinion. I look forward to hearing about your accomplishments and endeavors in the future.
Be well, be good, and be ready to take your college journey—however different and challenging it may be. Again, a big heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2020.