The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone's life to some extent. If you are pursuing a degree or certificate, or even just thinking about it, you may be wondering if all the virus-related disruptions will impact your education.
Schools globally have been making changes to their programs, from modifying their admissions requirements to revisiting their financial aid plans. Your best course of action is to reach out to the schools you're researching for information and updates—most have already had a chance to respond to the changing landscape and can help you plan your next steps.
Here are a few things you can ask about as you embark on your school search:
How Are Schools Handling Admissions?
Even though the pandemic has disrupted our daily lives to varying degrees, that doesn't mean your educational plans need to be put on hold. Most colleges, universities, and trade schools have enrollment and student services counselors working remotely to answer your admissions-related questions, and many offer online virtual tours of their campuses if you're still deciding on a school.
Many educational institutions have also modified their admissions requirements in response to the pandemic. In some cases, schools are lowering traditional barriers to entry, waiving standardized tests, and accepting pass/fail grades. Be sure to ask the admissions counselors at the schools you're interested in about their policies.
Will Classes Be on Campus or Online?
Most school campus have closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year and transitioned their in-person classes to an online-only environment. For students who have been taking classes on campus, this may be an adjustment. But most colleges are offering the option to take your classes online.
If you're already taking classes online, it's likely not much will change. Since many programs are tailored to the needs of busy students who are also working while studying, these schools don't always follow a traditional academic calendar schedule. Classes are always in session and you won't miss a beat in making progress on your degree.
Some schools are planning ahead for the 2020/2021 year by offering on-campus registrants the option to take classes online if social distancing restrictions are still in place.
Your school will be able to tell you what its plan is now—and for the future. Some questions to ask:
- How will online education be delivered?
- What is the biggest difference I'll notice or miss?
- Will the courses offered change, and will that affect the pacing or credits needed of my program?
- If there is a hands-on component of my education, how will that now be delivered?
- Will the cost of my education be affected at all?
Will My Loans or Financial Aid Be Affected?
Students may be concerned about how the COVID-19 outbreak may be affecting their financial aid eligibility, disbursements, or their student loan repayment schedule. It is unlikely your financial aid will be affected, provided you continue to meet the school's eligibility criteria. Your school's financial aid office should be able to answer any questions.
You may also be able to temporarily stop payments on federal student loans or be eligible for other relief if your financial situation has drastically changed. The office of Federal Student Aid is updating information as it becomes available. Students with questions about financial aid can also contact their school's financial aid office and borrowers can contact their loan servicers.
The COVID-19 outbreak is disruptive for everyone, but keep in mind that all schools are in the same situation and working hard to adjust to the changes this unprecedented time has brought to the academic world.
As you continue your school search, stay safe! And remember, we're in this together.