Congratulations to our Graduating Seniors – Class of 2021!
I’m so proud of everyone! You accomplished so much the past 18 months -adapting and succeeding. As we transition into a new school year- there may be questions on everyone’s mind. Foremost should be – “Did I learn everything — am I prepared for the next course sequence?” Everyone is eager to embark on the next step of their educational journey –reality- there’s going to be some adjustments ahead as students shift back to in-person learning. Some students were hybrid, others spent an entire year on Google Meet/Zoom. Teachers will be adjusting too!
About this time every summer, I prepare a my blog series packed with tips for new college freshman and thoughts for high school students looking ahead to their transition and their college applications.
This year, there’s quite a bit to discuss:
colleges and universities (and high schools) are resuming in-person learning — are you ready?
AP exam credit policies may have changed (impacts currently enrolled HS students too)
there’s the looming reality of how your semester will be impacted should you become ill with COVID or the pandemic impacts your campus/school.
For some families, economic uncertainty may require an adjustment to your financial aid package– understanding how to do so or request a Leave of Absence if attendance is currently out-of-reach can be challenging. Knowing whether to request a “deferral” or “LOA” or “financial update” and how to navigate these processes is essential to maintaining your college plan.
You’l find this blog offers some practical tips and interpretation of academic policy for undergraduates AND high school students. If you have questions about your specific situation- I encourage you to reach out — I would welcome the opportunity to assist you — especially if you are re-evaluating whether / where to enroll this fall (there are still options – more below).
Before we dive in, How is your summer? It is summer- a time to explore and recharge. Of course, this is a bit of a challenge as we engage in social distancing. I hope you hit the library (curbside pick-up) after selecting some of the books from my RECOMMENDATIONS for SUMMER READING & PROJECTS.
Whether you’re about to embark on your undergraduate journey (Freshman class of 2025) or a high school student (class of 2022, 23, 24 or 25) exploring potential undergraduate academic majors and starting the college planning process, you’ll find today’s insights helpful to understanding the requirements for earning your undergraduate degree and also some really cool insider academic planning tips. Please reach out to schedule a college planning and academic advising session – all my appointments are currently being offered remotely nationwide – college advising wherever you are– we are social distancing !
My rising high school juniors (2023) and seniors (2022) spent the past few months engaging in college research exploring differences across majors by reviewing curriculum maps and research institutes. In case you missed my resources, I invite current high school students to take a first or second look. Click to Read: College Planning: Finding Your “Fit” — What College – What Major?
College Admissions Planning: HOW TO SELECT A COLLEGE and A MAJOR That “FITs” YOU!
Returning to the in-person campus.
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
Back to the In-Person Learning?
For recent high school graduates, now that you’re ready to begin your undergraduate experience- you’ll be heading off to a college campus. You may have spent your last 18 months of high school online. Yet, in a college classroom, you’re expected to engage– in most STEM and Business courses, your syllabus will often have a class participation component and there’s plenty of (non-negotiable) group project work. Be ready to adapt- reimagine how your social interaction might have looked pre-pandemic and emerge back into normalcy with ease and grace.
I’ve been writing about the impact of COVID in so many aspects of education since March 2020. Fundamentally- we all agree that learning is the objective. Fortunately, school districts across the country and universities made adjustments and you completed high school in a different learning setting. Even with great technology, not all teachers/professors provided the same level of quality as they had done in the traditional classroom. Be honest with yourself on areas of content you may have missed – and consider this carefully as you plan out your initial semester at college. Many classes are based on the assumption that you have the academic foundation- if you don’t – reconsider advancing too quickly.
For college students– as you get ready to prepare to select your courses — I encourage you to validate your professor’s teaching reputation — the stronger the teaching evaluations, it’s a good indicator that your professor enjoys teaching and therefore, moving seamlessly from the online classroom back to the traditional setting is more likely. Don’t get me wrong- teaching evaluations have a myriad of issues – but it’s a good place to start. I also want to assure you- colleges actively put their BEST TEACHERS in freshman classrooms- it’s part of their effort to work towards freshman success and a positive transition.
You can also look to social media and talk with currently enrolled undergraduates about their professors. Taking the time to select courses and professors is essential for a solid educational experince as we know a VERY LARGE NUMBER if not all your fall courses will be delivered online- even if you are living on a university campus. (According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, a third of faculty surveyed indicate a desire and will in fact be approved to remain off campus — I’m sure you can understand why-working within classrooms populated by the college-age demographic that hs been already documented as asymptomatic super-spreaders is simply difficult for many faculty to embrace.)
If you have documented learning disabilities that directly impact your ability to process information in an online learning forum, I have more to say below about those accommodations that may be needed for your situation.
Colleges have historically gone to great lengths to design elaborate freshman orientation plans to bring students together as a community, navigate academic policies and make sure the initial year is a successful one. Undoubtedly, whether the year resumes completely online or in a hybrid of living/learning model- the same will hold.
But what do you do if for medical or personal reasons, you simply want to sit this one out?! (I’ll discuss financial reasons – hang on).
NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR ME: SHOULD I TAKE A LEAVE OF ABSENCE vs. DEFERRAL vs. GAP YEAR
LEAVE OF ABSENCE vs.
*** If you are a currently enrolled undergraduate, you can apply for a “Leave of Absence” up to the first week or so of a semester without a tuition penalty. Your college catalog will detail the steps for approval. These need to be approved. Acceptable reasons include medical documentation and concerns about COVID with a physician’s statement. Family emergencies, personal illness – also valid reasons. If you need time off – there’s no rush. LOA is NOT an option for an incoming freshman.
As an incoming freshman, you cannot take a LOA because you haven’t yet matriculated. However, you can apply for a “deferral” vs. a “Gap Year”.
Gap year approvals require an educational plan. Deferrals are different and I have to be honest. With declining college enrollments and shrinking budgets, there is a possibility your spot will be offered to someone on the waitlist. But not necessarily.
Deferral Approval: If your deferral involves a medical reason or a need to assist in the economics of your home (assist in childcare of younger siblings, assist in family business, etc.) you have a great chance of having your request approved.
If you or a close family member has an underlying health condition, and living on campus is precluded- your request will very likely be approved.
Parents are cautioned not to bring their own bias to the process as part of our desire to encourage independence. Students should be realistic- it’s clear you are ready and desire to leave home to start your college career – but if you need to revisit and think this all through begin with a family conversation.
I can help you assess your situation, your university plans and if the model you’re facing will work. If not, we can together file your request for a deferral/gap year. Gap years are different from “deferrals” as you are requesting approval of a different plan- one that is educational in nature- not just a chill/pause.
PAYING FOR COLLEGE WHEN OUR FINANCES HAVE CHANGED DUE TO COVID _ – Affordability – Finances Changed?
Affordability – Finances Changed?
Finally- what if you can no longer afford to attend. Job loss, business revenue declines and other unforeseen circumstances have placed some families in a position of economic uncertainty. You immediately need to file a request for a re-evaluation of financial aid. The process will involve a financial aid appeal. You will need to provide documentation- a recent paystubs or unemployment stubs or quarterly tax returns. The college will have a process to follow and truly do aim to assist when needed.
Your financial aid package will be recalculated. Keep in mind, when you file your 2021 tax form, you’ll be asked to submit and even if the fall 2021 package is adjusted–the package can readjust for spring 2021 if your economic situation returns to the level reported on your FAFSA that was calculated based on 2019 tax returns. It’s complicated but it’s a process to attempt if your family income /employment situation has changed dramatically.
Do you need to transfer?
Do you need to transfer?
Colleges and universities typically don’t accept applications this late for fall semester. Applications for spring 2022 transfer enrollment will be due by the middle of October 2021.
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Personalized Educational Advising & College Application Services
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.