Real Talk Podcast: COVID-19 & the College Search

June 16, 2020

On this episode of Real Talk, Student & Athlete Defense attorneys Susan Stone and Kristina Supler are joined by College Consultant Davida Amkraut to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the college search for this year’s rising high school seniors.

Susan Stone:                   Welcome back to Real Talk with Susan and Kristina. Today, we are here with our college advisor, Davida Amkraut to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the college search for this year’s rising high school seniors.

Kristina Supler:               Davida welcome. We’re so pleased to have you join us today. Susan and I have talked quite a bit about the changes for college students this fall, but we haven’t yet really explored the impact that coronavirus is going to have on rising seniors, who are trying to decide where to apply to colleges, what do they do? So Davida, let’s take a step back and start with the whole process of visiting. Do you even think that students are going to be able to visit colleges and universities this summer, this fall?

Davida Amkraut:            Thanks for having me. Certainly this summer colleges are not accepting students on campus for the typical college tour. Parents can go and drive by if the colleges have… our gates are open to a sense of what’s out there, but there’s not going to be any formal tours or information sessions as we once knew them.

Susan Stone:                   I’m dating myself because I don’t recall visiting a lot of schools when I was going through the college process, but I looked through books. If colleges are shut down, Davida, what resources are available to students to help them make decisions and where to apply?

Davida Amkraut:            There are university-endorsed resources that each school now offers. You can go to the school’s website. There is a COVID page on that. There are virtual tours. There are informational sessions. There are coffee chats. Some students can even jump in on some seminars hosted by faculty members. Those are all the approved methods where you can go and see campus, see campus in quotation marks.

Kristina Supler:               Davida, let me ask you, I mean those options, they certainly, I think we’re doing the best we can in light of the circumstances, but how do they compare to actually visiting a campus, walking through with your parents? The whole process that many of us are familiar with.

Davida Amkraut:            I’d like to compare it to buying a house and seeing a house online, right? You can look at pictures, it’s all beautifully set up and positioned and showcased. But until you get into that house, until you walk the neighborhood, it’s going to be really hard to know if it’s going to be a good fit for your student, for your family. Which is why I also recommend to my clients to go off those manufactured and university-endorsed pages and dig a little deeper.

Susan Stone:                   How do you dig deeper? What are you detecting?

Davida Amkraut:            So there are tons of websites out there. unigo.com, realcampus.com, niche.com, are all non-endorsed university websites that gives you a little glimpse of the social and cultural aspects of the campus.

Susan Stone:                   Davida, do think that colleges will get the same number of applications for the next year?

Davida Amkraut:            Colleges are really worried about enrollment and finances right now.

Susan Stone:                   How could they not be? I mean, it’s…

Davida Amkraut:            It is true. How could they not be, right? It’s a business, right? We’re talking about university, that’s a business and they are struggling the same way that a top law firm might be struggling. There will certainly be a downtick with early decision applications because the economy is so precarious. Parents are skittish right now that there’s a binding agreement, but they don’t know what they’re actually signing. Are they going to sign an agreement that their kid’s going to be online? I’m not so sure families are going to want to pay for that name brand and have their kids sit on their living room couch and pay that kind of money.

Kristina Supler:               Where else will they be looking? What kind of schools?

Davida Amkraut:            I think that you’ll see a lot of kids, first of all, looking closer to home so that if there’s another evacuation, parents don’t have to flounder together, get flights together. I know I have friends whose kids’ stuff are stuck in Missouri and they had to bolt out of there and their stuff is still there. So I think that there’ll be people looking closer to home and in state universities, I think are going to get an uptick in applications. Just cost benefit.

Kristina Supler:               Let me ask you, Davida, Do you think it will be more or less competitive to get into college in the fall?

Davida Amkraut:            I think… So, you’re talking about the fall of 2021?

Kristina Supler:               Well, and as well as the students who are thinking through for the following year.

Davida Amkraut:            Okay. So I think that it will be less competitive in certain ways. I think that if you are a full-paying student, client, whatever, you’re going to have an easier time getting into universities. Even those schools that claim that they’re need blind or need aware, they need full paying students and they want to fill those spots with those kids.

Susan Stone:                   What’s the difference between need blind and need aware?

Davida Amkraut:            It’s just the philosophy of the school that depends on how much they claim not to look at the finances. So need blind schools say that they don’t look and they don’t consider finances at all in their agreements. Whereas need aware schools say that they do look and it may impact their decisions in the end.

Kristina Supler:               What are schools doing with the international students? What’s going to happen there?

Davida Amkraut:            So those international school students probably will not have visas to come back, at least for the fall. And most international school students are full-paying. So that’s going to be a huge hit financially to the school’s finances.

Kristina Supler:               So then looking, it’s going to be very up in the air what will happen fall ’20, spring ’21, but then fall ’21 to spring ’22, what do you see happening then? It sounds like there might be a big flood of students coming back to campus again.

Davida Amkraut:            Right, because we didn’t even talk about kids now who are thinking about deferring their acceptance.

Kristina Supler:               That’s right.

Susan Stone:                   That’s right.

Davida Amkraut:            So we have these kids now who are meant to go off to college next year and they’re saying, “Well, I’m not sure I want to go to college with what it looks like right now. Do I want to take my breakfast and eat it in my dorm room? Or do I want to be online with all my classes? Do I want to…” So they’re thinking, “Maybe I’ll defer a year. Maybe I’ll-

Susan Stone:                   So how are colleges going to accommodate the kids coming in and the kids who had deferred, how will they even know how many to accept or what to do?

Davida Amkraut:            This is all unchartered territory. They don’t know. And I think that’s why we see every day different announcements from different colleges to try to regroup from all this. Nobody would have ever have thought that Columbia University would be test optional. If you would have said that to somebody that they were going test optional, everybody would, “Are you crazy?” And they just announced this morning that they’re going test optional.

Susan Stone:                   One last question, speaking of test optional, that is a perfect segue as to what I want to ask you, does the impact of coronavirus change what colleges are going to look for in an applicant?

Davida Amkraut:            How could it not, right? You’re talking about students. This year’s cycle, we have juniors who have not yet taken one ACT, one SAT, and they’re not going to. Right? College Board just announced that they are not doing an SAT online. And every single testing site is filled to capacity for July and August. So already you don’t have a level playing field. So we don’t have ACT and SAT scores. Then we have AP tests, which used to be a predictor of how well a student would do in a college level class. We can’t necessarily do that either. We can’t use that information because a three-hour test was now compressed to a 45-minute test online. And there was rampant cheating. And also the spring grades are not going to be counted as heavily. How could they be? They weren’t in school.

Kristina Supler:               So what are they going to look for in a two-second response? We’re going to have to continue this podcast.

Davida Amkraut:            Letters of recommendation are going to hold more weight, rigor of curriculum, activity section, and also their essays.

Susan Stone:                   Davida, we are so grateful to have you on our team. Thank you for joining us today. This has really been valuable information. We’re so pleased that we have you here to help our clients, help them navigate their essays. The evolving landscape for the college application process-

Kristina Supler:               And find the right fit of school with this change.

Susan Stone:                   I think your knowledge and experience really is such an invaluable thing to help our clients. So thank you so much.

Kristina Supler:               Thank you.

Davida Amkraut:            Thank you for having me.