Covid or College: Do I Have to Choose?

So many things in our world have changed in the last 3 months and it IS extremely overwhelming.  Last year my conversations with students and parents were centered around what to bring to college, understanding changes to parent student relationships with FERPA and enjoying the excitement of the new year through Facebook and Instagram posts. 

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Today the conversation is DIFFERENT!  Students and Parents are asking should I still go to college?  What is the value if everything is going online?  What options do I have?  Do I still need to pay the full price of school and dorms?  The thought of students paying a premium to stream classes was very creatively displayed in this Facebook post.

First, I want to remind you…There is value to education.  While the image is funny, we realize it is not really a true comparison.  Colleges and Universities are planning to provide in person, online or some hybrid of education and there is a cost and a value to that education.  If you thought so last year while you were applying, that should not have changed.

What might have changed is your financial situation and sensitivity to the cost vs value proposition.  Your family finances will definitely impact your decisions, but you should reach out to your school and explain your situation and see what is available.  Each school is managing financial aid requests separately. 

Recent High School Graduates started a very grueling application process.  Blood, sweat and tears, YES tears, went into a large majority of these students’ efforts to get accepted into the school of their choice.  Then COVID hit and they had to decide pretty early what they were going to do in the fall.  Some students changed their plans about going out of state or far away from home, some decided to stick with their initial plan.

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The choices were tough but were made. Now we are seeing a surge in cases and colleges are sending out invoices for the fall semester not only including the cost of a dorm room but requiring contracts signed from families stating that refunds would not be given if college campus has to close.  Now families are second guessing their May decisions, campuses are scurrying to provide information that is sometimes only good for a few hours. 

Everyone is asking WHAT SHOULD I DO? 

  • Don’t make hasty decisions – You spent 6 months or more researching schools, completing applications and then deciding on an institution to attend.  Be sure you review your choices and understand your ultimate educational goals.  If you change now, what are the implications on future options. 
  • Read EVERYTHING VERY CAREFULLY- There is A LOT of information on each school’s website.  Before making or changing any decisions, be sure you understand every aspect of the decision.
    • Find options or choices that work for your student
    • Understand deadlines for changes
    • Understand cost or fees associated with changes
    • READ – READ and then GO Listen to the volume of video communication about all of it available on YouTube. (Don’t believe me, type in your school’s name and 2020 and up will pop short videos about managing ever-changing campus life.
  • Communicate with your school – If you have researched all available information and still have questions, reach out to admissions, student services, and financial aid to address specific circumstances of your family.  Some schools have resources that might be able to help you overcome a change in plans. 
  • Be careful what you sign!  – Schools are pushing more documents than ever before.  Make sure your student reads or at least forwards the email to you to read before they agree.  Examples of documents:
    • COVID prompted and changed the housing agreement
    • Tuition agreements
    • Code of conduct – Check out the level of detail in behavior they are asking students to sign.  UMass Code of Conduct
  • Be confident in your decision – Once you have worked through all of the issues, stand firm in your plan, work to support your student as they begin the year.  The stress associated with this transition is big enough but when you add COVID, that multiplies.  Make a plan and check-in. 

So, yes YOU WILL HAVE TO CHOOSE!  But this is not an either-or proposition.  Ultimately, you have to do what is right for you and your family.  Consider learning styles, location, safety, cost, and family.  Luckily there are so many pathways to education and you have options.  You don’t have to choose COVID or COLLEGE. 

In closing I will say that you also need to CHOOSE to be a member of the community and take steps to ensure your health and well-being and that of your community.  CHOOSE to be SMART.

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