The recent public health crisis caused by COVID-19 and the school closures that resulted have left many college-bound students in limbo, without access to the critical in-person resources — college advisers and counselors — they were relying on to help them make the transition from high school into college. This loss is significant for all students, and especially for those who live in low-income families, who come from traditionally underrepresented groups, and who had their sights set on becoming the first in their families to enroll in postsecondary studies this fall.
As I have written elsewhere, an intensive and personal touch is ideal for helping young people make the most of opportunities available to them. Unfortunately, these are not ideal times. Still, there are useful ways to aid students virtually as they seek to make the transition this spring and summer to college.
With this goal in mind, MDRC is highlighting In Search of a Match: A Guide for Helping Students Make Informed College Choices, from its College Match Project. While the guide will not replace in-person advising, I hope that it can serve as a resource for those individuals who are advising students from a distance during the pandemic.
- The guide begins (on page 7) with an application timeline that outlines key activities and decision points in the college application process, starting in the spring of junior year and continuing through the summer after senior year. It also provides links to online resources (found in the appendix) and checklists (found throughout the document) that might be helpful for juniors and seniors who now have to make important college decisions without being able to meet with their college counselors or advisers.
- For juniors at the start of the search process, the guide provides tips on how to develop a list of match colleges (see the section starting with Figure 2 on page 13).
- For seniors who are contemplating which offers to accept, the guide offers advice about how to assess financial aid offers (see “Choosing a Match College,” starting on page 32).
- Items like the “summer checklist for students” (Box 8 on page 38) — a list of tasks that students typically must do between their senior year of high school and first year of college — might be especially helpful for students who were planning to enroll in college in the fall and who might need guidance on how to prepare for the transition.
Additional resources can be found on the bottom of this MDRC webpage.
The college admissions landscape has changed radically in the past few weeks — some college entrance exams have been canceled, some colleges have pushed out the date by when students need to accept offers, and it remains to be seen how the availability of federal student aid will be affected as more students find themselves seeking additional aid to support their college aspirations. Unfortunately, for a host of reasons, some students may be forced to reconsider their college plans altogether. That makes it all the more important to help students understand their options, stay on top of looming deadlines, and follow through on a set of admissions-related tasks during this very challenging and difficult period.
D. Crystal Byndloss is MDRC Director of Outreach, Diversity, and Inclusion and a senior associate in MDRC’s K-12 Education Policy Area. She directed the College Match Project.