How Covid is Changing College Planning
As a College Planner and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, I totally understand that the past year has been wild and hectic for everyone. Frankly, there's been no shortage of confusion or chaos the past year; virtually every market and sector has been affected by COVID in one way or another, and there are likely to be permanent changes to the way that we do/approach work, school, and life in general. All of this to say - the world of college planning is no exception. There have been significant changes in how I do things and how universities do some things, and all of that matters quite a bit when planning your education and future.
Luckily, we seem to be on the tail end of the pandemic; however, I'd still like to discuss some changes that it has caused because even when the pandemic ends, its ramifications are still something we're all dealing with.
Changes to How College Planning is Approached
As I said, there have been changes all over the place - both in how universities handle things and how I'm able to help people plan their future education and expenses.
Online Meetings are Important
Though it's best to meet in person whenever possible, everyone's gotten used to Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft teams. In the college planning process, you can expect tons of online meetings that are in part replacing in-person meetings. While these aren't always exciting, many of them can be incredibly important. As the saying goes, "You don't know, 'til you know.", which roughly translates to you have no idea what information you don't know or have until you learn it. This mentality is a great one to have when working with universities and community colleges. In many meetings and webinars, you may feel like you're stuck hearing the same old information over and over again, but every once in a while, there will be a great piece of information or advice that you weren't privy to. Those are the nuggets of gold you're looking for while planning your university experience.
Webinars are now the Norm
Speaking of online meetings, webinars are a new norm for many schools. They're learning that if you don't need to have something in person, they might also have it online. To schools - this change can save them money in various ways, but it can also be convenient for you to not have to drive out to the school or meeting site. Just keep in mind, sometimes in person is better, and if there's an option to go visit your school, it may be a great way to make a good impression. While this may sound weird - a ton of colleges are now offering virtual campus tours in place of in-person visits. You may also be able to schedule online meetings with those who you'd have previously met with in person, like admissions, department heads, or faculty!
Relaxed Admissions Rules for Some Schools
Over the past year, some admissions rules have been relaxed. This isn't a sure thing, and it depends on which school you're applying to; however, who doesn't like a little more laid-back admissions? This is likely to change soon, but many schools may be relaxed with coursework requirements, internship requirements, or anything that required you to show up in person. This includes the need for standardized tests! Many students may be excited to hear that some schools are making standardized tests like the ACT or SAT optional and relaxing their score requirements.
Raised EFC Threshold
For some, it can be expected that your expected family contribution, or EFC, may increase. For those who may be unfamiliar, the expected family contribution is the amount of money that the government believes your family can contribute to your college and college expenses. This is a significant number for those applying to college because it directly affects how much need-based aid you may be eligible for.
Possibly Less Financial Aid
Colleges and universities have also been affected in various ways by the pandemic, which means they may have less scholarship and financial aid money available for students. This is unfortunate for students who may have been relying on that money to get through school; however, there's always another way. If you're hurting because of a limited scholarship or financial aid money, please reach out to a college planner who can help your family create a comprehensive plan to pay for college!
Online Everything (Even many labs)
Another change that should be expected by incoming students is that many of their courses may be offered online (or even only online). In the past, colleges and universities had a majority of their main courses offered online, but now it seems that almost all of them will be up for virtual grabs. While shocking, this also includes many lab classes that were previously only offered in person. My advice, though, is that if you're in the major of the lab or course and physically attending a university to sign up for the in-person class or lab. While online can be convenient, you may also miss out on some awesome experiments or tidbits from the teacher or professor that may not make the cut online.
Be Prepared for Online Fees
Yeah… there's always something to spoil the fun. Even though online classes can be more convenient than in-person, they often come with online fees. This is strange because courses being online should save money for the universities. However, it also cuts down portions of their income (like parking passes) and costs typically associated with in-person classes. Because of that discrepancy, online fees are very real - so expect them when signing up for classes.
Mentally Prepare for Online Classes and Self-Pacing
Mentally preparing can act as the key to success for anything, and college is no different. ONLINE College or in-person college that has COVID restrictions and social distancing requirements is no different. Be sure that you're mentally preparing yourself to tackle the semester, so you're in the right headspace to be successful.
We are Hopefully Nearing the End
If trends continue, it seems to indicate we're (hopefully) coming to the end of the pandemic where things can start going back to normal. It's a complex and trying time to be doing anything new, but if you're going to school through all of this - you're doing something worthwhile! Reach out and give me a call or send me an email to schedule an appointment. Together, we'll develop an innovative, strategic, and forward-thinking plan to achieve financial success in higher education.
Until next time… this is Cox Collegiate Planners!
Melissa Anne Cox, College Funding and Student Loan Advisor, is also a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and financial coach in Dallas, Texas.