Greetings High School and Undergraduate Students and Families,

It’s been over five weeks since I wrote my first note with some practical guidelines for managing your academic year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that time, I’ve written close to a dozen blogs on assorted issues in college admissions and higher education impacted by the Coronavirus– including school closings, campus visits, revised AP exams, cancelled SAT dates and navigating the college admissions process and graduate school.    How is everyone doing in this challenge?  


If you’re a currently enrolled high school senior ’20 making a decision on where to place your enrollement deposit, I want to suggest you re-read my blog with some important points about Gap Years, Deferral, Negotiating financial aid and overall- thinking about online learning.  I also had similar insights for high school sophomores and juniors questioning whether to enroll in online collegiate summer programs in the middle of the horrific and disruptive COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve updated some of these insights below and also have some information for  currently enrolled undergraduates below.

Discipline and motivation are essential- but it’s also important to reach out for assistance with school work and finding peace and support during this unprecedented challenge.  I encourage all students — whether in high school or as undergraduates to continue to be mindful of your goals and your excitement way back in August- remind yourself of your next steps and look forward.  Our heart aches for a return to normalcy and the good health of all our family, friends and neighbors–and to honor everyone on the frontline, please do your part to continue social distancing to stop the spread of the virus.

College Admissions and Educational Goals During Coronavirus? 

I know many students and families are confused – how will college admissions for undergraduate or graduate programs be affected? What about my transcript- I can’t seem to find the motivation and/or my school/college/university is now pass/fail?  Remember, everyone is equally disrupted — keeping a healthy perspective is important.  The most essential thing to do is LEARN!  Learning is continuous.  Learning now is essential to success in your next academic endeavor and the career you will step into –whether that’s this fall or a few years.  If you can let go of the grades and redirect your energies on the passion you have for learning and the goals you have set you will be in a better place in the long term.

Did you ever train for a 5k or a marathon or a competition of any kind? You had a support network- of coaches, friends and even a work-out buddy. Have you considered a learning buddy?  If you’re a student having trouble staying focused – and that’s really quite likely given the uncertainty and stress of the situation – please remember your support network.  Consider engaging with a friend or classmate to learn for each class and your responsibility to one another can be truly inspirational and get you thru to the other side.  Undergraduates know about teams – they are required in business school and the only way to tackle a 20-hour long STEM problem set without feeling overwhelmed.  High school students can find a new independence to get through the process with a learning partner.

WILL COLLEGES re-open in the FALL?   

Increasingly we are reading that there is a very high likelihood that universities and local school districts may again continue in an online modality for the fall.  Certainly there are many creative conversations being  considered by local school districts and colleges to explore later starts or shifting semesters. The impact on local economies will be astronomical –but a later start is for all intents and purposes better than another less than ideal learning setting.
Here’s a great look at several possible scenarios  HERE and HERE in two  recent opinion pieces within  Insider Education.
These decisions will have to be announced by July at the latest -leaving families scrambling.  No one wants to pay $50k+ in tuition, (and especially a freshman) to interact with peers on a screen.  University officials won’t be making the decision- the situation will be dictated by CDC guidelines at the federal level and by state mandate.  Universities will be financially impacted leaving faculty and support staff potentially unemployed.
Freshman orientation is an elaborate process designed to bring students on campus to build community and work to help students succeed in their transition. Universities will be looking for creative ways to revamp these programs and build community for all incoming students who commit to enroll without yet knowing if campus will in fact reopen or become an online experience.


I’m sure you read that Boston University is considering a late start and adding a summer term.  I applaud their taking a lead in higher education – the school is known for its exceptional program in Public Health- so it comes as no surprise to hear these early rumblings that are clearly going to set a trend. Many universities around the country are already under discussion about revising the academic calendar– a late start is a proactive way to avoid another term of online learning and also remain in compliance with federal and state mandates.   This is a complex decision involving university administrators, faculty and industry partners and is not as obvious or easy as it may seem on face value. Sadly, some colleges will face financial challenges and be unable to weather the enrollment storm with missed enrollment targets forecast for the freshman class.
If you’re a high school senior trying to decide where to place your enrollment deposit or in the process of understanding and negotiating your financial aid award letter, please reach out to schedule an online college admissions appointment with me ASAP.
As regular readers of my college admissions newsletters and blogs know, college admissions is a holistic– meaning that college admissions officers want to know about how your perceived academic and personal interests were developed throughout  high school in coursework, community service and extracurricular activities that often include attendance at a collegiate summer program.
You’ll be submitting your transcripts, test scores and writing essays – and your Common Application will detail how you’ve spent your time throughout high school – including your summers.  While collegiate summer programs aren’t a requirement, nor are they even an expectation- I guide many of my clients to selecting a meaningful program that will meet many objectives – and also remain within the family budget.
I’ve written extensively on the value of summer programs and many of you have applied and are already accepted to a program. Please consider the type of program before you commit to online learning this summer.
When disappointed students ask me how to spend their summers– I have many ideas – starting with meaningful community service to help those in need,  completing college applications ahead of schedule,  preparing for next year’s courses, and using the time to study to take/retake cancelled SAT/ACT and SATII exams.


Taking a GAP YEAR — Takes on new relevance during Coronavirus Uncertainty


Very few students take advantage of what should be viewed more positively.  I’m consistently amazed at the expressions of confusion expressed by both parents and students about taking time off in a non-traditional educational venture. As I write about every year during – the data speak volumes.  A productive and meaningful gap year experience is an awesome opportunity and students taking advantage of this path in fact out-perform their peers academically and in the internship/job market.
Requests for a gap year as families are uncertain about whether to send students across the country are beginning to be received by colleges.  The traditional model is that students place their enrollment deposit and then initiate a gap year application which is subject to approval and must include a plan.  The uncertainty over our situation as a nation is indeed very real.   Colleges have budgets to meet, classes to fill and dorms to staff.  Even if social distancing is relaxed by fall, the uncertainty over the virus is very real and so if you want to hedge your bet-put in a request for a gap year. You can always retract your request in July.

Currently Enrolled Undergraduates – Managing Online Learning, Withdrawals, Incompletes, Graduate School?

As we expect in any setting- some people are doing just fine and others struggling with the adaptions– let’s explore a few options.  Faculty are either doing their part to deliver instruction and be available through online modalities or they aren’t.  Students are either staying on schedule or they aren’t.  Again, same advice as was given to high school students- you have to learn the content in order to advance to the next class and be ready to have the skills you need for graduate school or joining the workforce.
You can withdraw from courses-but remember- dipping below a full-time status can impact financial aid eligibility and even trigger student loan pay-back rules.
You can take an Incomplete to slow down the progression- this would be applicable if you are ill – both physically or emotionally and your dean or undergraduate advisor can assist with submitting the appropriate forms to slow down – do not miss deadlines. There are no deadlines–if you become ill- seek out your health care professional and work with your college to secure an extension to complete coursework.
If your college hasn’t already shifted to pass/fail grades– you can take one or more courses in this manner -but you must be mindful of academic policies expressed in the student handbook on limitations for earning your degree.

If you’re applying to graduate school within the next year or even considering accepting an offer- there are many ways to remain engaged and have meaningful summer experiences to enhance your resume for these next stages.

For more on Graduate School and Undergraduate advising click here:

Whether you’re a senior planning to make a choice,  or a 10th-11th grade student starting your college research- you’ll find ongoing insights in my blog posts and social media links.  Juniors – we’ll be soon starting on annual Writers Block College Admissions and College Essay Workshop – this year- we’ll be meeting online and plan to begin in May.

Stay tuned for ongoing insights on finishing your academic year strong and staying on target with all your College Admissions Planning goals.


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Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Educational and College Admissions Consultant
Professor Emeritus  – Cornell Alumni Rep
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