COVID affects college plans

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After graduation, most BSM students attend college, but what that will look like next year is anyone’s guess.

Courtney Kallas, Staff Writer

In a normal year, seniors at Benilde-St. Margaret’s start to make their college decisions around this time of year: the mid-to-late fall season. However, 2020, as everyone knows, is not a “normal” year, as many aspects of life have been altered due to the infamous Coronavirus. With that being said, it is easy to assume that students’ college plans have changed drastically, but is this really a valid conclusion? To get a better understanding on COVID’s impact on the college process, seniors at BSM were asked to share their experience and how their decisions have been affected by the virus.

When asked about attending college, all of the 17 students surveyed responded that they were planning to attend one after graduating high school. Surprisingly, only about a fourth of them reported that their college plans had changed in response to COVID.

Of the seniors who responded to the survey, 87.7% of them said that the struggle to get on college campuses made a significant impact on where they are going. “Many students are forced into looking at colleges online through virtual tours, especially if a college is in an urban area. Some students have been fortunate enough to make it on campus, but planning is key because colleges can’t bring as many students to campus and their visit spots fill up quickly,” BSM counselor Mrs. Heidi Wessman said in an email interview.

Contrasting to what the survey reported, Wessman said that gap years have become a little more prevalent in the Class of 2021. “We are seeing a small uptick in the number of gap years––where students are deciding to stay home and volunteer or work during the year after they graduate,” Wessman said.

She also added that some seniors are going to be at home next year, as their gap year programs have been cancelled. “Many gap year programs have been cancelled due to COVID, so mostly students are finding work at home,” Wessman said.

So how many students actually know where they are going to college at this point in time? The number is relatively low. Out of all the seniors questioned, only 17.5 % of them have finalized their decisions. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the remaining seniors have no idea where they’re going. In fact, in the free-response section of the survey, some claimed that they had already narrowed their list down before COVID, so nothing really has changed for them. “I think that many of our seniors have narrowed down their list of colleges but are still ultimately undecided,” Wessman said.

Even though a lot of the students reported that COVID did not have an impact on their college decisions, a few of their peers said otherwise. One issue mentioned was the cost of college; some seniors don’t believe it’s worth paying for expensive colleges just to take online classes. Many people are going to more cost-effective schools in case they aren’t able to get a college experience on campus.

Another way students changed their decisions was by changing their application category. One student in their response mentioned that they were planning on applying Early Decision to their college of choice, which they weren’t thinking about before the COVID era.

Some BSM athletes have also changed their plans due to the fact that their scholarship may not be available for them in the fall of 2021. “Some are in a situation where they are looking for another option or they are just waiting to see how their seasons ultimately play out with COVID,” Wessman said.

Wessman encourages students to do as much research as possible to find the best post-graduate fit. “Research, research, research, and take advantage of every virtual opportunity possible if they haven’t been able to get on campus. Talk to BSM grads who went to the college(s) that you are considering,” Wessman said.

Wessman also gives everyone a friendly reminder that the counselors are here for them during this process. “Talk to your counselor to help you sort things out,” Wessman said.