A year ago, most college seniors first decided if they wanted to go to college or not. If they did, they applied, and sometime in the spring received their acceptance letters and then chose what college they were going to attend. In the fall, they attended that college. In the age of coronavirus, that decision is no longer simple. If you’re a parent of a graduating high school senior, you’re faced with tough choices. Should your child go to college this year, or attend a community college instead, or just take a gap year?
The Case for Not Going to a University
If you want to be safe, the obvious choice is to take a gap year or plan to attend the community college.
This spring when cases of COVID-19 started appearing, universities shut down and closed the dormitories. There is a good chance that cases of COVID-19 will continue to increase. How will universities handle that? The trouble is that no university has specified their plan.
For many people, containing the uncertainty is a better option. These people will have their children enroll in the local community college and live at home. Others take a different route and are having their children take a gap year and start college not in the 20-21 school year, but in the 21-22 school year. By then, they figure things will have settled back down to normal either through herd immunity or a vaccine.
Besides mitigating uncertainty, another reason to wait on going to a university is because attending college far from home is expensive. Some students and their parents take out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans or make financial sacrifices to pay for university. Do they really want to pay all of this money for online classes? Then answer is no, which is why they’re opting out of university this year.
The Case for Going to a University
None of us have a crystal ball. Maybe this pandemic will be gone in the fall. Maybe colleges won’t be impacted. Some people are betting on that, or that if their kids do get the virus, they won’t be that sick. Others don’t want to put their education on hold for a variety of reasons.
My friend’s daughter plans to move 12 hours from home to attend university this year. So far, the college plans to open in person, though she did receive a note that the semester would end early—at Thanksgiving break.
Likewise, my nephew, who got into a prestigious school in Japan, opted to start university this year. So far, his classes have been all online and he’s sheltering in place in his dorm room. This isn’t an optimal way to start a university career, but for him, academics are more important than socialization.
Should your child go to college this year? Unfortunately, that’s a tough question to answer because so much remains unknown. Luckily, I only have a rising high school junior, so we don’t have to make such tough decisions. If we did, I think I would encourage him to stay closer to home because life as we used to know it doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon.