TAMPA, Fla. — A major deadline still looms for students during the COVID-19 outbreak.
National College Decision Day is typically May 1: the day when students need to make their final choice on where they’re going to college in the fall and reserve their spot with a deposit.
Many universities have pushed off that deadline another month to give students and parents more time. Some families are struggling financially due to the heath crisis. Yet, some colleges still have the May 1 deadline set.
“I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to be on campus to some extent, but I’m not thinking it’s going to be exactly the way it was last semester,” said Preston Wimbish, a junior at the University of Tampa. “I’m not going to be a in a classroom with 30 students. I think big lab classes like that are going to have to be somewhat online.”
Some students have floated the idea of a gap year or semester to see what school looks like after the fall.
Wimbish is already a college student, but he’s talked to his mother about taking a semester off.
“I think my logic isn’t unique at all. I think a lot of people are in the same boat as me,” said Wimbish.
“He called me and he said ‘if we have online classes in the fall, I don’t want to go back,'” said Emily Sullivan, Wimbish’s mom. ”'I just want to take the fall semester off, I can still graduate in May of 2021. I don’t want to do online classes.’ And as a parent I said, 'wait pump the breaks, let’s think about this.'”
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is a Virginia-based organization made up of high school counselors who work with students as well as college and university admissions officers who work through the application process.
Jayne Fonash, the NACAC president, wants students trying to make a decision on where to go to take a breath and look at their options.
“Until [colleges] fill their class and until they feel they’ve been able to answer everyone’s questions about this, they will continue to take deposits so long as they’re able to provide a seat in that incoming class,” said Fonash.
Fonash says if your college of choice still has a May 1 deadline, call them and see if they’ll work with you on that deadline, if you still have questions, or to find out if a deposit can be refunded if you need to make a change in education.
When it comes to taking a gap in education, Fonash says you’ll still want to reach out to college admissions, especially when it comes to scholarships and financial aid.
“If you have a school that you’d like to plan to attend and you’d like to do a gap year, you need to find out what their policy is on the offer of admission, how long the gap year would be, what would happen to your financial aid offer,” said Fonash.
NACAC has a tool on it’s website showing which colleges and universities have and haven't changed deadlines.
Fonash suggests students reach out to their school guidance counselors for more advice on how they should move forward.
“Postponing your college education for a year may not be the best choice for you and before you make that decision, reach out to counselors and admissions officers to get all the facts so you can make an informed decision about your future,” said Fonash. “We’re counting on these students to be our next best hope. They will be the engineers and the scientists and the economists who are going to get us out of the next big crisis.”