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Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 Is Affecting Students



The COVID-19 pandemic has considerably impacted college applicants and current students, shuttering campuses and prompting a shift to online classes. Members of the College Confidential community have submitted a variety of questions about how this is affecting both current college students and applicants.

To answer those questions, College Confidential hosted a webinar on June 11 entitled “Student Voices: How COVID- Is Impacting Students.” During the event, moderated by Abigail Ford, director of digital learning with Inside Track, the following panelists offered their perspectives on this situation:

  • Ethan is a high school senior from Colorado who was accepted at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, Brown, Vanderbilt and Georgetown, among others, and will be attending Harvard this fall.
  • Zai is a high school senior from Maryland who was recently accepted off the waitlist at Northwestern University, which she plans to attend this fall.
  • Rohan recently finished his freshman year at Dartmouth College after having attended high school in India.

Check out the following topics that the panelists discussed, along with their views of how things may unfold.

Plans Shifted for Class of 2020 Applicants

When asked how coronavirus impacted their application experiences, both Zai and Ethan noted that the pandemic did prompt some changes for them. “I had applied to some schools on the west coast, and after the coronavirus arrived…I ended up not considering any of those schools,” Zai said. She also considered attending the University of Maryland, despite having been admitted to NYU and some other schools that she preferred, because Maryland was less expensive and closer to her house. However, after getting accepted off the waitlist at Northwestern, she decided it was the best choice for her.

Ethan added that he hadn’t visited any colleges prior to the outbreak, and campus closures afterward meant he wouldn’t have the opportunity to see any of the schools on his list in person. “I had been banking on the admitted student weekends to explore campus life and the school culture,” he said. Therefore, narrowing down his list of colleges was challenging, since he had to rely on other resources like virtual tours and talking to current students. “I just had to be a bit more resourceful in the process,” he said.

Online Classes Not Appealing

The pandemic impacted not only college applicants, but also current college students. As a freshman at Dartmouth, Rohan had just finished his second quarter when he left for spring break — at which point campus closed due to the pandemic. “I started and finished an entirely new set of classes online, and I can honestly say in comparison to the classes I’d had before, it was definitely worse,” Rohan noted.

He also pointed to other disappointments that came along with the campus closure. “I chose to apply early decision to Dartmouth because of its undergraduate focus, close relationships to professors, small class sizes and the community — and once you move to online school, all those things cease to be realities,” he said. In addition, tuition was not discounted, and his energy levels for the classes suffered.

He also had to abandon previous plans to either do an internship or academic program this summer in other cities. “I’d taken the effort to research and plan those opportunities, so to put in that effort and have them canceled definitely threw a wrench in my summer plans,” Rohan noted.

Advice for This Year’s Applicants

Although many students say “the more the better” when it comes to extracurriculars, the panelists cautioned rising seniors against taking on too many different types of activities once they’re able to participate in extracurriculars again.

“When you’re formulating what extracurriculars to choose, I would argue against doing a little bit of everything,” Rohan said. “That’s what a lot of people think you should do: write for the school newspaper, do a sport, do the reading club, do a science project. And I honestly think that’s the wrong way to go. I think colleges want to create a well-rounded class, not a class of well-rounded individuals. What that means is they want a class of students with different intellectual pursuits, things they’re passionate about.”

Instead, he advises, when picking extracurriculars, choose the ones that reflect what you want to do, and take a deep dive into them. “Specialization is key in one or two areas,” he adds.

Ethan agrees that you should explore the areas that you’re passionate about so when you’re filling out your applications, the admission officers will get a clear idea of who you are. “The biggest piece of advice I have comes to the second stage where you’re trying to figure out how to present yourself on your applications. It’s kind of crazy to think about, but you pour countless hours into standardized testing, extracurriculars and all of these non-tangibles — and sometimes it’s only a couple minutes that admission committees look at your application.”

His advice is to package yourself in the most concise and compelling manner possible, and to devote some time to think about sewing a common thread through everything you’ve done to illustrate who you are and why you want to be on a particular campus. “The best way I found to do that was to think about what theme I wanted to convey through my essays,” Ethan says. “You can boil that down to a couple words or a sentence that illustrates what you want to study, how that ties to a personal attribute, and what change you hope to bring about in the future on a personal scale or a global scale, or whatever is most compelling to you.”

In addition, when writing your essays, don’t forget to note the unique factors of a school and mention them in the application, Rohan said. For instance, telling Stanford you want to go there because of its strong computer science program might not be compelling, because Stanford already knows it has a strong computer science department. “If you write a supplemental essay for a school and you can simply replace the name of the school and it would work for another school, that is a bad essay,” he said. “Make sure you tailor your essay to each school.”

Tips on International Applications and Waitlists

Zai was initially going to attend a different school when she received an acceptance off the waitlist at Northwestern, so she shared the steps she took during the period she’d been wait-listed.

In addition to the two existing recommendation letters she’d already sent to Northwestern, she submitted another after finding out she’d been wait-listed. She also shared with the university that she had been accepted to Google’s competitive computer science summer program, and explained what other contributions she’d been making since submitting her initial application. “I also talked about being a student council president during the pandemic, the kind of difficulties I was overcoming, how I was still trying to make sure people were having a good time for the rest of the year, and how complicated that was. And I think that interested them because it showed that even through the pandemic I was working to show my interest in the community. Hopefully it helped them decide they should accept me off the waitlist.”

When it came to a discussion about applying from abroad, Rohan shared his experience as an applicant from a high school in India. He didn’t get the chance to tour any schools due to the expense of being overseas, so he advises international applicants to perform thorough research. “Inherent to that is, first of all, throw rank out the window,” Rohan said. “If you’re applying to selective schools, they all have a pretty similar quality of education. Honestly the difference between the first ranked school and the 25th ranked school is pretty arbitrary, in my opinion,” he said. “So look for the things you think are important that you want in your college experience and look for the schools where those are available.”

Once you know what you want, you’ll see that only certain schools have those attributes, and look for those things regardless of rank, he advised. “Please avoid U.S. News or Forbes or any of the rankings, because those are not relevant to what you want out of the college experience, because what you want is very highly subjective, no matter who you are.”

Start the Scholarship Search Early

Ethan noted that when it came to finances, he worked closely with financial aid departments to discuss his financial package. “One thing that was helpful to me was negotiating offers with colleges,” he said. His need-based aid varied drastically between different schools, and some expected him to pay nearly three time more than others due to different financial aid formulas. “By working with financial aid departments, telling them my situation, letting them now I had other offers, they were able to bring down the net cost per year. I would recommend that for those who are applying for need-based aid and have multiple offers.”

He reminded students that although it may be compelling to relax after submitting college applications, that’s exactly when you should start looking at scholarship opportunities, and you can often reuse some of your essays for those.

Zai encourages students not to hesitate when hunting for scholarships. “If you want some of the bigger scholarships, start early,” she advised. She felt she started too late to qualify for some significant scholarships, for which applications open in August or September.

To review the entire hour-long webinar, you can watch the replay here.


By: Torrey Kim
Title: Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 Is Affecting Students
Sourced From:
Published Date: Sat, 13 Jun 2020 12:43:28 +0000

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Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid



Many families are facing new financial challenges in light of the coronavirus emergency, and College Confidential has fielded dozens of questions on this topic recently. To address those queries, we hosted a webinar on April 9 entitled “Paying for College Amid Changes Due to the Impact of COVID-19.”

During the event, moderated by Aaron Murphy, manager of learning and development with Inside Track, the following panelists offered their perspectives on the issue:

  • Denise Trusty, director of financial aid with Morehead State University
  • Laura Reisert Kalinkewicz, associate vice president of college partnerships with RaiseMe
  • Amy Nelson, director of sales at International Scholarship and Tuition Services
  • Charlie Javice, founder and CEO of Frank.

Check out the following topics that the panelists discussed, along with their views of how things may unfold amid the financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.

Family Finances Changed? Contact Your Schools

If you plan to start college in the fall as a freshman — or return to school as an existing student — and your financial situation has changed since you applied for financial aid, you should contact the colleges on your list immediately. Financial aid departments can consider appeals for more money, but must base these decisions on each individual student’s situation, Trusty said.

“I know with Morehead State, where I work, we will be doing professional judgement calls on all students who say they’ve been affected,” she noted. “We will reach out to those students to see what we can do to help them maybe obtain additional funding, additional grants, scholarships, whatever they would be eligible for. We do professional judgment all the time for our students, because things happen all the time. This year will be an especially large amount of those, I’m sure, but those are up to individual schools to make that call for their students.”

In addition, she added, the Department of Education has set aside over $6 billion for additional grants and scholarships that the universities will be able to use. “Currently, I don’t know how that’s all going to play into this,” Trusty said. “So that will be up to each individual university on how they lay those out. I know it will be beneficial, I just don’t know how available that will be to each student.”

Keep in mind that schools are accustomed to reviewing financial aid appeals, and they all have processes in place for to do so. “It is really, really important to know that schools typically leave a budget from 10 percent to 20 percent or so of their financial aid dollars for what would be called a professional judgment bucket,”Javice said. “Therefore, there is additional money to be had, and it’s up to you to request it. You should approach your school as soon as you know you might need more money, and be prepared to show supporting documentation demonstrating how your finances are different from when you filed your FAFSA initially. This might require proof of a job loss, medical bills, a cut in pay or another such issue, Javice said.

In addition, if another school gave you a better financial offer, you can petition the school that gave you the lower offer for more money, Javice noted. “This typically works better for private institutions versus public state schools, given the fact that they have a little bit more discrepancy and more dollars to put to work in terms of a tuition discount,” she added. “This is solely up to the school on a case by case basis.” In some cases, the money is distributed on a first come, first serve timeline, so don’t wait if you know you need more aid.

Although financial aid can be a stressful topic, try not to be emotional when you request more money, Javice added. You’ll get a lot further by having organized documentation to present than you would by getting angry or upset, she noted.

Consider Outside Scholarships

The coronavirus situation has changed plans not only for incoming freshmen, but also for current college students, Nelson said. “Organizations are stepping up and trying to find ways to provide additional scholarship opportunities this year,” she noted. Students should be proactive in seeking those options.

Raise Me is offering new micro-scholarships for students who are seeking additional funding sources, Kalinkewicz said. In addition, she encourages students to ask colleges for more time to make decisions, even if the school hasn’t extended its deposit process. You can always try and request additional time to get your financial aid package right, she noted.

Finding more money is not relegated to younger students, Javice added. “Adult learners comprise the biggest group of people actually going to college today,” she noted. It’s very common for people to be seeking new types of skills and going back to college to gain additional degrees. Financial aid is available to adult learners, and they may even get aid to pay such costs as rent, she added. In addition, they can seek outside scholarships or employer-matching funds to pay for their educations.

Not Necessarily Too Late to File FAFSA

Students who didn’t file a FAFSA already should do that as soon as possible so you can get access to financial aid funds, Javice said. Federal FAFSA deadlines are usually in June, but states make their own deadlines for state aid. Some states, such as New Jersey, have moved their deadlines back for this year, so check to make sure you stay on top of your deadlines.

And if you file for financial aid and you decide you don’t want it, you can always decline the financial offer or portions of that offer, Nelson said. Your best bet is to apply so you can take what you need and decline any amounts you don’t need. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should apply anyway because you could be surprised at what you’re offered. “You really need to complete that [FAFSA] process every year,” Nelson said. “The process is very easy, and jobs can come and go. It’s your safety net and you want to make sure you’ve completed it. It makes it a whole lot easier when situations like this arise.”

Some colleges also have supplemental applications to fill out for particular types of aid, so always reach out to your financial aid office for information on which documentation you should be completing, Kalinkewicz said.

Could Families — Not Schools — Be in the Driver’s Seat?

Because many merit scholarships are based on test scores and GPAs, some high school juniors are concerned that they won’t have access to those in the coming year. With test dates being canceled and grades moving to pass/fail, they fear they won’t meet the criteria to earn such scholarships.

“It’s clear to me that colleges and universities know the extraordinary circumstances we’re under,” Nelson said. “All schools are leaning forward and considering all options as the situation develops. I would continue to encourage juniors to stay engaged and stay informed.” You should also watch to see what happens with test dates, she said. The ACT and SAT dates could change, and some schools may forego the need for a test score altogether, she added.

In addition, some merit scholarships that have traditionally been based on test scores may become test optional, Kalinkewicz noted.

Keep in mind that in many cases, families are in the driver’s seat rather than having the colleges be in charge, Javice said. Some schools have lost revenue and are very eager for students right now, “so if you are scared because you thought you could never get into a specific school from an admission criteria standpoint, this is your year to stretch, this is your year to think about the schools that are your reach category and go for it, because schools need the money and need the students. So the power that used to be in an admissions office is in you, the student or the family’s hands,” she said.

She also advises juniors to request application waivers from schools to save the $50 to $100 or so per application that they would normally pay. The schools may say no, but it won’t hurt to ask, she advised. “Persistence is key when dealing with schools,” Javice noted.

Federal Student Loans Payment Suspended

As many families are aware, payments on federal student loans are automatically suspended from March 13 through September 30, 2020 thanks to the government’s CARES Act. This is essential to keep in mind, particularly for families that have multiple children in various stages of the college process.

“You will stop paying your loans and you will have zero interest from now until September 30, and that’s important for parents to know,” Nelson said regarding existing federal student loans. “If you had an auto draft, the auto draft has been shut off and will not continue. You can, however, continue to make those payments if you’d like, and any interest you had before March 13, once that interest is paid up, all your payments will go directly toward your principal.” She advises families with federally-backed loans to check with their loan servicing agents, because they have a lot of information for both parent and student borrowers on how the CARES Act will impact payments for the next six months.

Student Job Gone? Colleges Might Help

For students who expect to earn money via part-time or full-time work to pay for college, but can’t do so due to the coronavirus, colleges may have resources to help. “There are many colleges and universities that have put together emergency grants for students to cover expenses that they were maybe not expecting because of COVID-19,” Nelson said. “They are making accommodations to try and make up for that lost income for students.”

Trusty said Morehead State is continuing to pay students who were on federal work-study. “If they had a job, we are still paying them right now as if they were working, although they are not. In the summer, those funds will be flipped over to emergency grant funds. So we will make sure that our students are covered and can live as if they were employed with the work-study position.”

Some colleges have even made remote work available to students, Kalinkewicz added. Therefore, contact your financial aid office to determine if any accommodations are available to make up for lost student income whenever possible.

Consider Other Options to Save

If you are seeking ways to save money on college, you should also consider other resources, whether that means less expensive colleges, in-state options or potentially transferring down the road, Janice said. You can also save money by taking classes at a community college to pay a lower cost for your credits that can be transferred to a four-year college later.

“If you have that target institution in mind — maybe you’ve already been admitted there but your family has determined a year of community college will really help stretch things further — work on articulation agreements or a plan so you are taking the right classes that actually have the ability to transfer toward the degree you want at your target institution, not necessarily just as credit,” Kalinkewicz said.

In addition, many colleges offer merit aid for transfer students, she added. So always look for every potential financial aid and scholarship resource to best maximize your package and allow your dollars to stretch as far as possible.

Resource: To review the entire hour-long webinar, you can watch the replay here.

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By: Torrey Kim
Title: Webinar Recap: How COVID-19 is Affecting Financial Aid
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2020 15:22:20 +0000

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