Road Map for April: Seniors

This is a long one, because the Class of 2020 has a unique set of logisitical challenges in addition to the emotional ones. Here goes.

Take Care and Prepare

Like everyone else is telling you, take care of yourself physically and mentally, and take care of those around you. I’m hearing wild variation among students about what their workload is for school; some have had very little in the way of distance learning, while others have more work than they did when they were going to school every day.  The implication of this is that you should do what is asked of you as well as you can, but also know that colleges will be forgiving. In a normal year I am reminding students throughout the spring that their admission is contingent upon a successful finish to high school.  Make an honest effort to do your work, but this is a lot to handle; even if you don’t have a sick relative or a parent out of work, this is taking a huge emotional toll on all of us. The loss of the all the fun you were anticipating is real, and not having your friends available to you is the opposite of what you need. Be reassured that it would take an awful lot for an acceptance to be rescinded this year.

What you are already doing, however, is developing skills you will need when you do ultimately go to college. Academic independence, time management, self-direction, and taking charge of your learning are things that often make the transition difficult for students in the freshman year, but you are getting a head start now. If you are finding these things harder than you expected, think about what you can do now to work on those skills before the fall: make a schedule, develop effective study habits and techniques, and ask for help when (not if!) you need it.

Decisions, Decisions

You might have been planning final college visits and admitted student events to help you make your final choice. Although you can’t do those on campus, colleges are working hard to make everything available remotely as much as they can. Some of the options I suggested back on March 11 are no longer available but you should absolutely take advantage of whatever colleges are offering, including connecting with students and faculty to get answers to your most important questions about academics and campus life. As I mentioned in my March post, reading campus newspapers online is also a great way to get a perspective on colleges, especially going back a semester to a time when campus life was rolling along as usual.

If you’re not able to find a student to talk to, check out the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook group. This is a group for parents of 15-to-25-year-olds and they’re working to connect prospective students with current students.  Or contact me; as a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), I’m part of a network of professionals who are supporting each other’s students with these kinds of connections.

Students should also be aware that some colleges, but not all, are moving their deposit deadlines to June 1 and making other adjustments to their policies.  If you need more time but your college is sticking with May 1, don’t be afraid to ask for an extension, especially if financial aid is a factor.

Financial Aid

If you need more aid to attend the college of your choice, get in touch ASAP with as much documentation as you can provide. In a normal year, the best case to make for reconsideration is new information, such as a change in financial circumstances. With so many families experiencing that right now, financial aid offices will be expecting appeals and will have a process in place. Be prepared, however, for the answer to be no.  The vast majority of colleges just don’t have the resources to meet every student’s need.  On the other hand, don’t assume anything, and keep in communication with your schools.  As deposit deadlines approach and students make their decisions, money that has been committed to other students may free up if those kids decide to go elsewhere.  Also do this if your parents need more time to connect with their financial advisor on a new college funding plan.


With so much uncertainty, most colleges are putting more students on their waitlists than usual rather than deny admission, and we could see more movement from those waitlists than we do in a typical year. My previous advice for waitlists still holds: share new information and let the college know if it’s your first choice.  Be prepared, however, for the possibility that an offer of admission may not bring with it the financial aid you need, as many colleges consider ability to pay in the waitlist round even if they don’t consider it in the regular round of admissions.

What about the fall?

No one knows yet exactly how long it will be before things are back to normal, so I’ve come up with a couple of scenarios.

Scenario 1:  If things are back to “normalish” by August, I think we’ll see mostly minor adjustments, like orientations done virtually or postponed.  Even so, students should be prepared for a later wave of closings; because of this I expect some portion of students to decide to stay closer to home than they might have otherwise. (This will impact those waitlists I talked about above.)

Scenario 2: If we are not close to normal by fall or later, students should prepare for the possibility of having some or all of the fall semester take place remotely.  Faculty on many campuses have already been told to prepare for this scenario. This is not good for anyone, and I much prefer in-person classes to those I’ve taken online. However, colleges are working hard right now to improve the online experience and I’m confident that if this is what we’re faced with, the quality of the online experience will be much better than whatever experience you’re having with your remote high school classes, or even what you’re hearing about distance learning from current college students.  Everyone will just be more experienced at it and have more support.

Gap Years

As a gap year consultant and member of the Gap Year Association, it pains me to say this but at some colleges, current deferral policies may not hold. I expect a surge in requests for deferrals, and many colleges are not in a position to meet their enrollment goals by saying, “no problem, see you in 2021.”  And with the possibility of travel restrictions, gap year planning is looking very different this year.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.  Even if some colleges are not granting deferrals, maybe yours will, and there’s no reason to be concerned that requesting a deferral would somehow be held against you.  If you are able to get a deferral, check out the Gap Year Association’s planning guide or contact us for help with your planning from our gap year experts.

What else?

I know families have many more questions that I’m not answering here.  To schedule an individual consultation, please click here to book an appointment through Calendly.