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Next Steps for High School and College Students Amid Campus Closures

This information is brought to you by our partners at Edmit. When you sign up for SoFi, you get access to Edmit Plus—a tool that helps you estimate financial aid, compare cost of attendance, or learn more about merit aid and scholarships available. This article is part of our effort to help high school students, current college students, and college graduates understand how COVID-19 is impacting college classes and the admissions process.

From our team at Edmit, we hope you are staying safe and sane in light of the rapid changes we’re experiencing in the world. Like you, we are managing the impact on our families and community and at the same time trying to make sense of what the changes mean for college students and their families, and for higher education more broadly.

We believe Edmit’s mission to provide families with the tools, support, and confidence to ensure they’ll be better off after college continues to be vital. Many American families are experiencing big impacts to their own finances, which can create anxiety and difficulties in their ability to plan and pay for college.

It’s also going to be tougher financially for colleges. Many of them rely on room and board expenses as a source of revenue, and those charges are being refunded to current students and may not apply to future students who might be learning online in greater numbers. Endowments that support colleges’s operations are down with the stock market and could fall further. Read Edmit’s guide to understanding a college’s financial health here .

With many colleges suspending class and sending students home, colleges are aware they need to better accommodate online learning (at least in the short term, though it may be longer than we’d like). Higher education institutions have been offering more online learning in recent years but that trend has varied greatly college to college, with some doing so more rapidly than others.

Even in an uncertain economy, college is still one of the most impactful investments you can make in your and your family’s future. So what does COVID-19 mean for college finances? As you can imagine, there are many things we do not know—but there are some we do. Here are some of the major impacts we’ve observed so far on the college admissions process and on college students—and what you can do.

For High School Seniors

College visits and admitted student days are being cancelled as campuses close.

Tip: If you were relying on those to help you make your decision, you should seek alternative ways to evaluate your options. Follow the colleges on your list on social media or look for virtual college tours to give you a sense for the campus environment—and if you can connect with current students at a college, they are likely to be home and could be willing to speak with you about their experiences.

Admitted students may have more time to make their college decisions as colleges are changing their deposit deadlines in light of all of the disruptions.
You may have more time to decide where you’d like to go—at least a month extra in many cases.

Tip: If you haven’t committed to a college yet, you may want to wait until you understand how they are responding to the coronavirus events and until you have more information about your own personal situation (see below). Keep track of new deadlines in a spreadsheet as you hear about them. The COVID College Choice , an essay from Brennan Barnard, a seasoned college counselor and writer on college admissions, shares wisdom on how to maintain the right attitude and get the information you need as you navigate this decision.

Professionals say we may see impacts of the coronavirus into the next academic year.

Tip: If you do plan to attend college in the fall, you should be aware and prepared for the possibility that you will not be on campus with business as usual. Do some extra due diligence about your university’s capacity to support online learning. You can find this information online (do an internet search for “[college name] online and look for results from the official university .edu website) or by calling the admissions office. Ask about what portion of students take online courses in order to get a sense for the depth of experience. You can also look for professors at the college on Twitter, many of whom are sharing their experiences of transitioning courses online.

There is great economic uncertainty right now in the financial sector, and there is likely to be rising unemployment in some industries (e.g., service industries, small businesses, retail). Your family’s finances may be impacted in the near term depending on your and their employment situation and where the money for college is coming from.

Tip: It’s likely that colleges’ financial realities will shift in light of other changes—meaning that the money they have set aside for financial aid and scholarships could be impacted. Even if your finances and employment are stable now, it’s possible your family’s financial situation may change or change again. If you do know of any concrete changes to you or your family’s employment or income now which will impact your ability to pay, you should reach out to the financial aid offices at the colleges. This may take the form of a financial aid appeal .

For High School Juniors

College visits and admissions events are being cancelled as campuses close.

Tip: If you are a high school junior and you were considering visiting campuses in the coming months, seek alternative ways to evaluate your options. Colleges are hosting virtual events (see below for a list) and providing more information via their websites. Virtual college tours can give you a sense for the campus environment—and if you can connect with current students at a college, they are likely to be home and might be willing to speak with you about their experiences.

Testing dates have been cancelled or delayed for the SAT (live status page) and ACT (live status page). AP tests, make-up tests, and future dates may be impacted.

Tip: Since students won’t have their scores until later in the application cycle, they may be interested to explore test optional colleges (though applying test-optional is not always optimal ).

Watch a video from College Coach about standardized testing and COVID-19 .

Schools are closing nationally (here’s a growing resource for parents dealing with this) and there are big disruptions to coursework and extracurriculars as a result.

Tip: Colleges know that this unprecedented situation will have lingering effects into the next application cycle. You most likely won’t be penalized for things that are not in your control. So focus on those things that are in your control, and find your opportunities for growth and development. As best you can, focus on your studies, on developing your personal interests and skills, and on any extracurricular activities that have not been curtailed. Find time for self-reflection. Those things will all help you when the time to apply does eventually come.

College financial aid policies may be impacted. As noted above, colleges will be facing financial pressures from multiple angles. This may mean they become less affordable—and many might find themselves on shaky financial footing .

Tip: Monitor the news from colleges you’re interested in in light of these possibilities. Don’t assume that scholarship data or net price calculator results from last year will apply. Ask the financial aid office to help you understand what financial aid could be available to you, and be aware that the picture could change over the coming months.

For Current College Students

Your financial aid is not likely to be impacted for the remainder of the year. While usually universities need approval to convert programs to online and offer financial aid for those, that requirement has been waived for the government for now. There’s one exception: federal work-study may not be paid out if you are not working those hours.

Tip: if you have questions about whether your eligibility for federal financial aid this semester is impacted, it is worth confirming with your financial aid office. Make sure you check on all forms of scholarships and aid.

Many campuses have sent students home and are offering pro-rated refunds of room and board.

Tip: How much you’ll get, and how to claim it, will be college-specific. See what your university says and follow closely for updates to their policies, as those are likely to evolve. For example, here is a here is a refund round-up for Boston area colleges.

Students may have financial difficulties or lack a place to live if they are not able to leave campus.

Tip: If you are in need of an exception or immediate help, reach out to your financial aid office. There may be emergency funds or small grants available (the government has authorized new funding for this), and many colleges are providing alternative options for those that can’t simply ‘go home.’ And, how a college or university accommodates you now is likely a strong signal of how they support students generally.

For College Graduates

Federal student loan borrowers get some relief: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that people with federal student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for at least the next 60 days, and borrowers who have defaulted on their federal student loans will get a temporary halt from having their wages, Social Security benefits, and tax refunds garnished by the federal government. Another helping hand for student loan borrowers is the pending Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARE Act), which provides that all loan and interest payments for federally owned student loans would be deferred through September 30, 2020 without penalty to the borrower.

Tip: Student loan borrowers with just federal student loans or a mix of federal and private loans might want to wait a bit longer to refinance. When you refinance your federal student loans, you waive any current and potential future benefits and protections, including the temporary waiver of payments and interest that the federal government will provide to federal student loan borrowers.

Having trouble paying down private student loans due to changes in the economy? You aren’t alone.

Tip: If you’re unable to make your private student loan payments, you should probably make a call to your servicer to see what options you have under existing programs rather than waiting for new policies to go into effect. You may qualify for deferment or forbearance programs which pause your payments, or for income-driven repayment plans which cap payments based on what salary qualified borrowers are earning. We recently shared tips about this here . You can find information on SoFi private student loans on the updated FAQ page.

Here are some resources we’re tracking to keep tabs on how COVID-19 is impacting college-going students and their families financially:

•  Colleges and Universities Closed/Going Online for COVID-19 with information about colleges and university closures, including visits and information session information (crowdsourced by university administrators and admissions counselors)

•  Colleges That Have Changed Their Deposit Deadlines (crowdsourced by admissions counselors)

•  The National Association for College Admissions Counseling has a searchable table of changing admissions deadlines and virtual event information.

•  Upcoming College Admissions Events from Colleges (crowdsourced by admissions counselors)

•  Readings on the Financial Implications of COVID-19: for those wondering about the higher education sector as a whole, a list of articles that address the impact of the pandemic on the higher education industry and colleges and universities, compiled by Kevin McClure, Associate Professor of Higher Education at UNC-Wilmington

Note: As you’re aware, the news changes daily, so we’ll be updating this page and list as we learn more.

As a SoFi member, you get access to Edmit Plus. Speak with an Edmit education advisor by phone about these and other topics.

Learn More

This article contains breaking news and events related to the current state of politics and the economy. While we try our best to keep our articles as up-to-date as possible, the ongoing effects of COVID-19 are happening in real time and information is subject to change.
This content is brought to you by our friends at Edmit. That means all opinions expressed in this content are those of the author and not necessarily held by SoFi—and are for purely educational purposes only. Nothing you’re about to read here is intended to provide financial or legal advice.
All trademarks are the property of their respective owners, and any pages linked to and from this one are subject to change without warning. While we obviously think very highly of Edmit, SoFi does not provide, endorse, or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendations. Edmit is solely responsible for their products and services.
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