Opinion: COVID-19 fundamentally changes how seniors select colleges

By Vivienne Tran & Emma Williams

Attending Zoom webinars in lieu of admitted students days means that the faces of your future classmates are replaced by muted, gray boxes. Technical difficulties and a lack of real human interaction make it difficult to pay attention and gain useful information. Of course, many of us could not visit college campuses anyways, but not having easy access to seniors in the same position every day at school makes it harder to visualize your future plans.

College visits in the spring have all been canceled, making it more difficult for juniors to choose what colleges they will apply to. It also makes it difficult for seniors who have not yet had a chance to visit colleges and who are choosing what college they will commit to. 

The University of Washington (UW) was the first large college to transition to entirely online classes. As other schools followed, canceling classes and study abroad programs, controversy arose over short deadlines given to students to move out of their dorms, and whether students would still have to pay for housing while taking online classes.

Many college campuses are closed to visitors and tours are canceled, so schools have to adapt to show admitted students a preview of the school and provide virtual campus tours. 

Along with UW, 112 other schools have started to host their events for students through CollegeWeekLive, which is a website that allows prospective students to attend virtual events and presentations given by colleges. Students may chat with an admissions representative or counselor as well. 

One of UW’s Admitted Student Previews was held on Apr. 14 through CollegeWeekLive. UW Admissions sent links to the students signed up for that date so that they could join the event. The preview was scheduled for 4 p.m., but due to server issues which resulted in log-in issues, students were not able to access the event until 6:40 p.m.

During the event, there were information sessions, academic presentations given by professors, and more. Admissions counselors were also online to answer questions that students had through a live, messaging chat. To make up for the late start, UW Admissions has kept the sessions from the event accessible through students’ personal links.

Once students pick what school they will attend, the question of online classes for the fall semester arises as well. For UW, their Early Fall Start is completely remote learning, while they are hoping that the fall semester will be in-person. Details are still unclear, but other colleges including Chapman University are also planning to have students on campus during the fall semester, learning face-to-face. 

With the future uncertain, our college experiences may be markedly different than previous generations. No matter where we find ourselves, the next four years do not define our entire lives.

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