How COVID-19 Will Affect The 2020 College Admissions Cycle

"For students who have already applied to university and are eagerly awaiting their admissions responses, there is a growing worry that the coronavirus will affect admissions decisions. Princeton attempted to reassure students that this would not be the case last Tuesday, tweeting: “Please note: The coronavirus outbreak and its effects have no impact on how we evaluate applicants to the University. Every application will receive our full consideration.”

But the worry remains that universities will see a decrease in international student enrollment as a result of the coronavirus. For the large number of universities who depend on their high number of international students to pay full tuition, this could have serious economic ramifications in the coming semesters. One third of all international students studying in the U.S. are from China, and the school and test cancellations as a result of the virus will no doubt disrupt the admissions cycle." …

I had one acting MFA callback cancelled due to Covid-19, so I absolutely know that it’s impacting my admissions experience.

We made it in just under the wire to do our last college visits (visits Tues and Weds, schools shut down Friday) and I am breathing a huge sigh of relief. The visits were game changers and my daughter’s decision process would have been super hard otherwise. We got lucky.

I can see it already. I am looking at my acceptances of schools offering the most $$$ …and a few weeks ago they were not even in my top choices.

My family is self employed and we are going to get hit hard.

IMO, COVID-19 will likely increase admit rates and/or waitlist activity at numerous colleges for the following four reasons.

  1. Many students and parents are rethinking how much they want to spend for a college. Some families, such as restaurant owners, will have devastating impacts to family income. Others will be impacted by the decrease in their investment accounts. Spending plans that were made in December 2019 may no longer be valid now.
  2. Families will rethink how far away they are willing to send their students. If a campus gets shut down, far easier to pickup students that are a few hours drive away, rather than several hours away by flights that might also get canceled.
  3. International applicants face the additional burden of wondering whether travel to the USA will be allowed, whether they will face the additional burden of quarantine, and whether students will be allowed to come, and more importantly return to the USA after visiting home.
  4. The elimination of admitted student campus visits eliminates the bonding experience that happens between a student and college after admission. Instead of treating May 1st as a final commit date after falling in love with the college after a visit, it becomes more of a "best thing right now, subject to a better offer" mentality.

I think the result of all this will be lower initial yield. Either colleges proactively increase the admit rate ahead of time, or they should expect to be much busier on the back end in terms of waitlist.

Obviously this will affect each college in its own way. Globally renowned universities (the IvyPlus colleges, Berkeley, Michigan) may face the travel issues, but benefit from being people’s top choice in terms of waitlists. A mid-tier LAC may suffer a great deal with the lack of a bonding experience.

I sure would hate to be on a college admissions committee right now.

Easy To Visit might become a significant selection criteria for students. If I can hit three schools in one metro area or drive a couple hours out to the middle of nowhere to see one other, well I have a good idea who isn’t getting a visit.

@hebegebe you took the words right out of my mouth. Exactly each and every point you made i am in total agreement. That far away or expensive college isnt looking that hot. That college that we expected to visit in April for accepted student day, looking all flashy with the red carpet luring us in, making us dreamy, well that’s not happening. 529s and investments arent the dollar amount they were months ago. I wouldnt be surprised if families and students revisit professions. Ie are they cut out for a public health profession? Or on the contrary, do they have a new interest in the oublic service or helping profession.

@WorriedKnight , do you wonder if your campus tour was tainted by the looming threat of college closures? I can tell you that at my kid’s college, many students were anxious and upset during the last week or so. She said the students couldn’t help but be concerned due to the uncertainty.

Personally, I think there was little point in most colleges offering tours any time in the last two weeks. I wouldn’t judge any college negatively based on a campus lately, unless it was an outright bad experience.

Lower yield for some, higher yield for others. Public universities may get higher yield from in-state students and lower yield from out-of-state students, for both financial reasons (job and savings/investment loss that families encounter) and concern about travel difficulties to distant colleges. Obviously, this can adversely affect tuition yield – which will be a financial problem when the economic downturn reduces state tax revenues and therefore the amount of money that states can subsidize their public universities.

More students may start at the local community college, which will become more crowded as job losers go back to school to try to qualify for other jobs.

Not-highly-ranked private colleges that are expensive and sell themselves on a unique college experience may be hurt particularly badly, especially if they need to do distance education next fall due to continued virus issues.

Overall yield may drop as some at the margin of being able to afford college may no longer be able to afford any college.

One of my son’s colleges where he was accepted has extended the commitment deadline to June 1. Has anyone else experienced this change? Sure would make life a bit easier to make decisions a little later.

There is a thread for deadline changes…maybe we can all post there?

here it is

Found it. Thank you.

Looks like the one overwhelming conclusion is more financial pressure on colleges, with the number of students with genuine need rising even before you take fewer full pay internationals into account. For those of you who’ve been around here a while, there was probably a similar type of outcome following the global financial crisis a little over a decade ago? How did that end up playing out in practice? Obviously it partly depends on college endowments. Do we get more need blind colleges moving to need aware?

if internationals cannot come this would mean less $$$ for colleges. International students full pay and bring in 41 billion/year!!! That’s staggering,

colleges with smaller endowments will be hurt and probably move to need aware or cut merit.

also, will this eventually bring down the price of tuition with less people being able to full pay?

I guess the other aspect is that it adds to the demographic impact of peaked high school graduates, to lead to fewer people applying (international) or applying to as many schools as before, helping reduce some of the crazy competitiveness seen in recent years,

Possibilities discussed so far: Yield going down; fewer international students; less $$$ with colleges. All these seem longer term effects - wondering if these things would actually affect the current 2020 admission cycle ?

Shorter term, during 2020 admission cycle - yes yield may be slightly lower with a few more students taken off of wait lists - but imo most other things remain same. The real changes could be for 2021 cycle, if this thing continues into the fall (hopefully that is not the case). The economic impacts on the univ and to even individuals may not be apparent until after all the univ decisions/commitments are made.

Public universities will raise tuition, as they generally do during economic downturns when state subsidies fall due to state tax revenues falling.

I’ve heard that there will be much more reliance on the waitlists this year. But I’m also hearing that students just want to get future plans set and might not be as willing to wait it out if they have an acceptance somewhere. Anecdotal, of course.

There is a huge ripple effect. What will happen to class of 21 if they can’t take the ACT/SAT or only take it once in the Fall? If they can’t superscore, will the average score decrease? I think the schools will heavily rely on ED1 and ED2 to help with yield and bring in more full pay with so much uncertainty. We may see a reduction in merit scholarships if endowments significantly decrease.