State of College Admissions following the coronavirus pandemic

Deciding where to attend college is a huge decision for high school seniors, and one of the biggest ones they will likely ever make. As if the senior class of 2020 hasn’t had enough challenges and missed opportunities due to the unprecedented school closures, trip cancellations, as well as deferral of graduation ceremonies and dances like the prom, many are now left with making their first major life decision without ever stepping foot on the campuses that they may call home for the next four years.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most colleges and universities across the globe are closed for remote instruction until the fall. An article published by the U.S. News and World Report outlines the issues that this causes for college students.

Elizabeth Heaton, vice president of educational consulting at Bright Horizons College Coach, stated in the article that while many colleges and universities across the United States have already given applicants an admission decision, many still have not. 

This means that many students and their families are still unsure of what the next four years of their lives will look like, meaning that they are less able to make decisions on things such as housing for the student and will have less time to prepare financially for the burden of college tuition, room and board.

The article also mentions that due to these delayed decisions, and other delays administratively due to remote operation, many colleges have moved their deposit deadlines from May 1 to June 1. Thus, changing the traditional “national college decision day” for students.

In addition, another issue arises administratively. Heaton also shares in the article that many colleges take students’ “demonstrated interest,” or how likely they are to enroll if admitted based on attendance of things like open houses. Well with these events cancelled, how does that look for students who are currently applying?

For students who are currently applying to Virginia Wesleyan University, demonstrated interest “isn’t a variable in the admission process,” David Waggoner, vice president for enrollment said.

Additionally, an article published by USA Today shares that there has been a national trend of newly enrolled students reconsidering where they will go to college and even if they will go at all following the coronavirus outbreak. 

As far as enrollment at Virginia Wesleyan goes, Waggoner and Dr. Denise Cunningham, the Director of Enrollment for the Batten Honors college, shared that they have not seen any downturn in enrollment.

“As of this point in time we’ve not seen any negative impact on enrollment. Deposits are in line with what our modeling predicts based on applications received, and compare very favorably to the past three years. The key will be how the COVID-19 crisis unfolds over the summer,” Waggoner said.

To support the seemingly undisturbed enrolled student body, the university will be taking steps similar to many other schools across the country.

“The summer orientation will be virtual this year. Students will access the orientation portal and walk through a series of modules that will provide an overview of support services, the housing process, and course selection. Freshman advisors will meet with students both in groups and individually via an online platform to help students select classes and answer orientation questions,” Cunningham said. 

Additionally, future student athletes will be able to attend their own virtual open house as will students applying to Virginia Wesleyan for the Batten Honors College. 

As for those students who are applying now or have not yet made a decision on whether to attend Wesleyan, Waggoner shared that although they are working from home, admissions counselors “are making phone calls, and sending texts and emails like they would under normal circumstances … well over 400 students have attended our virtual open houses.”

While these are certainly unprecedented times for everyone, enrollment personnel implore that the university will do everything it can to provide “thoughtful and intentional instruction” for its students regardless of what the future holds.

During Marlin’s Day in February, a prospective student poses with Bob Marlin.
Dalton Powers