College Admissions And Financial Aid Questions Amid Coronavirus Colleges have extended deposit deadlines, the SAT and ACT are canceling testing dates and students and their families are navigating financial decisions amid the uncertainty.
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Graduation, Financial Aid, Admissions — For This Year's College-Bound, The Future Is In Turmoil

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Graduation, Financial Aid, Admissions — For This Year's College-Bound, The Future Is In Turmoil

Graduation, Financial Aid, Admissions — For This Year's College-Bound, The Future Is In Turmoil

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Turning now to high school seniors. The ones who are bound for college - they're in the throes of picking what school they'll attend next year. As NPR's Elissa Nadworny reports, The coronavirus is making an already stressful time even more so.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: This spring was supposed to be an exciting time for Xander Christou. Like many high school seniors, he'd spent the fall applying to colleges.

XANDER CHRISTOU: Like, I've researched them. But they're just names and logos and programs.

NADWORNY: This spring, when he started hearing back from schools, the plan was to visit them.

CHRISTOU: Some of my top choices - I've never set foot on campus. Or I don't know if the campus looks like.

NADWORNY: But that plan is now out the window. Most colleges have closed their campuses. They've canceled campus tours, accepted student days and orientation events. Schools are working to migrate those offerings online. But Xander, who lives in Austin, Texas, isn't convinced.

CHRISTOU: I'm thinking it's - there are going to be a lot of YouTube video tours the next couple of weeks.

NADWORNY: Plus, there's the issue of money and how his family's going to pay for college. That's become even more important now.

MAI LAMISON: We're in the midst of a global pandemic. And individual safety and community safety is far more important than where I'm going to go to college. But still, it does add a lot of stress to the process.

NADWORNY: Mai Lamison, a high school senior in Florida, had her hopes set on going to school out of state, maybe even New York City.

LAMISON: Right now, my parents are unsure, especially my mom. She's worried about going to a big city because also that's kind of where the outbreaks happened. And she's worried that, if this gets worse, or something like this happens again, where will her daughter be specifically?

NADWORNY: She has backup schools in Florida where she lives and says those options are feeling less and less like backup plans.

JON BOECKENSTEDT: There's never a good time for a pandemic (laughter). But from an admissions standpoint, there really couldn't be a worse time.

NADWORNY: Jon Boeckenstedt oversees admissions and financial aid at Oregon State University.

BOECKENSTEDT: Every parent and student's going through a difficult time right now, just managing to deal with uncertainty.

NADWORNY: March and April are typically when the bulk of acceptances and denials arrive in students' mailboxes and inboxes. Financial aid packages come around this time, too, setting up the options for how to pay. The deadline to make the decision has traditionally been May 1. But schools are rethinking that date.

BOECKENSTEDT: It's really unfair to say, well, we have our deadlines. And come hell or high water, you had better decide by May 1. I think it's just unconscionable.

NADWORNY: Boeckenstedt and Oregon State have helped lead a movement to shift that date back a month to June 1. So far, about 200 other colleges have committed to that new deadline. And many others are considering it. Marie Bigham runs a nonprofit called ACCEPT that's been tracking schools with the new deposit deadline. She's been urging more schools to join in.

MARIE BIGHAM: I can't fathom any family in six weeks from now saying, I know where my child is going to college or my student is going. And I know I can afford it. And I am confident that that place will be up and functioning in three months.

NADWORNY: Her group has also been encouraging admissions offices to beef up their online offering, including virtual tools and the ability to sit in on a virtual lecture. She says campus visits have long highlighted inequities. Low-income students are less likely to travel due to finances.

BIGHAM: So this is flattening that privilege a little bit.

NADWORNY: But she says there are still concerns. Going online still ignores...

BIGHAM: The real inequity of broadband, of technology - that that is difficult to find in some communities. And, you know, families can't afford it.

NADWORNY: And with high schools shut down, it may be harder to stop by a counselor's office or get advice from a teacher regarding colleges. So schools are urging students to still reach out to college admissions and financial aid offices on the phone, by email or on recently developed chat tools. Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, Washington.

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