Usually, colleges require students to send in a deposit by May 1 in order to hold a spot in the incoming freshman class. But some schools are offering more flexibility to students as the coronavirus crisis grows.
Over the past week, more than 200 colleges and universities have said they’ll push the deadline to at least June 1, according to a tally by a nonprofit group called ACCEPT (Admissions Community Cultivating Equity & Peace Today).
That includes the highly-selective Williams College in Massachusetts, Gonzaga University in Washington, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“There is real financial uncertainty for everyone at this moment, and May 1 seems awfully close. Having that extra four weeks to process the decision is really invaluable,” said Marie Bigham, the founder of ACCEPT and a former college admissions director.
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It’s not just about paying the deposit, which can typically range between $500 and $1,000. Committing to a college means taking on the burden of tuition and other costs just as the economy is facing an unprecedented calamity – adding more pressure on prospective students trying to decide between schools.
Millions of Americans’ jobs are at risk and the stock market has plummeted, erasing nearly all gains made since President Donald Trump was sworn in. Families’ 529 college savings accounts could be looking a lot smaller than they were just a month ago. On Friday, Trump said he would allow existing student loan borrowers to suspend student loan payments amid rising layoffs.
New Jersey high school senior Jillian Moran said she spent a lot of time on the phone last week trying to better understand her financial aid award from Penn State.
The boutique she works at after school has closed because of the coronavirus outbreak and she’s worried about not having enough spending money saved up. She’s feeling even more pressure because she was planning to start classes this summer.
As of Friday, the college has not moved its May 1 decision deadline but explicitly told accepted students in an email not to come visit the campus in person. Moran has been to Penn State before, but never for a formal tour and was expecting to visit next month.
“I’m pretty freaked out. Everything is closing, there’s no end in sight and they’re still going to ask me on May 1 whether or not I’m coming,” Moran said.
For those students who haven’t yet visited their top-choice schools, making a decision about where to enroll will become more of a challenge now that they won’t be able to get any face time with current students, admissions counselors or financial aid advisers.
Gracyn Devine was planning to attend an admitted students day at the University of Rhode Island next weekend – until the college canceled the event and all tours, along with suspending in-person classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, Devine, a high school senior from New Jersey, visited the university on Friday with her parents. Hardly anyone was on campus, she said, but they were able to pick up a map from a mailbox outside the closed welcome center and use it to take their own self-guided tour.
“I really liked the campus – and I think that’s a good sign if I liked it even when no one was there,” said Devine, who’s still trying to decide between the University of Rhode Island and the University of Delaware, which she’s visited before.