The 2021 College Choice


The College Decision can be overwhelming, even more so this year than usual. Photo Credit: Dominic Comfort

A startlingly different year for the senior class in 2021, the college choice looms for current seniors. After the SAT was cancelled back in April, many colleges have since become “test blind”, allowing exceptions for submitting test scores. Not only are many colleges now “test-blind”, but some are exclusively online, with others still hosting in-person classes but taking many extra precautions to satisfy critics among the pandemic, such as requiring students and staff to don PPE. With the past six months having now drastically shaken up the collegiate landscape, high school seniors must navigate through the field of colleges to choose from with even more carefulness than before.

To select a college in this modern and ridiculous year of 2020, each student must think deeply as to what they will be looking for in their college experience. There are so many questions to be asked such as “Do I have faith this college will remain in-person?” or “Will I be able to maintain classes virtually and still receive my degree?” Many colleges have cancelled in-person classes, but refuse to offer reduced or refunded tuition. Students must ask themselves what type of student they are, and what the college experience means to them. Are they in it for the full deal with dorms, sports events, school spirit, campus walks, and hands-on learning? Or do they care solely about passing and earning a degree, whether it be in-person or online. How many students would be able to manage if their in-person college suddenly was to shut down and switch to a virtual program? Many students likely would not be all-in on the virtual process, but nonetheless, their bank accounts will be. That is why colleges must be closely examined by students this year unlike any other. What is the student’s college of choice doing during the 2020-2021 school year, and are their options likely to change during the 2021-2022 year? If a student is a hands-on leaner looking for the full collegiate experience, but the college they have their eyes on has had an unstable track record with online/hybrid classes during the 2020-2021 school year, that student might want to broaden their horizons.

Another major difference and grey area that must be considered for high school seniors ending the 2021-2022 collegiate school year, is college athletics. If a student is on track to play sports in college, the landscape of college athletics has been DRASTICALLY shaken up this year. Depending on what sport they play, if they are a spring athlete, their MHSAA season was canceled in April of 2020. This has thrown the recruiting process through a loop, and altered the opportunities available to many for scholarships, spots on teams, and athletic funding.

The other major problem in the arena of collegiate sports, is eligibility, and whether or not one’s college of choice is playing sports this season. Every school had their 2020 spring sports cancelled. Because of this, most athletic commissions gave student athletes another season of eligibility. That means that if they wish to continue studying in college, many student athletes will be able to return for a “fifth year” of spring sports. Where that issue gets complicated is fall sports. Whether or not one’s college of choice is competing in sports this fall such as volleyball, football, cross-country, soccer, or others, is basically up to the toss of a coin. For example, most NCAA conferences from D1 to D3 have cancelled all fall sports. However most NAIA and NJCAA schools ARE competing this season. If the school you are hoping to play for cancelled fall sports, that means not only will current athletes be granted another year of eligibility for a season of spring sports, but fall sports as well. For sports such as cross-country and track, this essentially gives senior runners a fifth year of competition, skipping only indoor track, the winter season. While this is certainly a fair situation, athletes returning for a fifth year still keep their scholarships. So many schools with returning senior athletes will be handling five separate classes of student athletes, as opposed to four. Since the classes of 2020 through 2024 already have their athletic scholarships set in place, funding for athletic scholarships given to incoming freshmen can be limited or nonexistent.

If you are a good enough athlete to be assured an athletic scholarship, chances are you will for sure one once the fifth class completes their extra year. Even still, missing out one year of an athletic scholarship can cost students a wide range likely from $1,000-$15,000. This situation can easily affect the collegiate choice of the student athlete, as the athlete could be tempted to lean towards a community college governed by the NJCAA, or smaller university competing under the NAIA, since those schools likely are not as backed up with “fifth year athletes.”

Overall, the abundance of factors influencing the college choice for the high school class of 2021 is more infinite than any preceding year. A sharp student will take these circumstances and use them as an advantage the best they can, as everybody working in education as well as higher education navigates through 2020 and 2021 like a stunt-man walking a tightrope. The one thing that is certain is that the eyes of everyone are locked more than ever on the senior high school class’s decision, and on the colleges they choose.