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April 2020
May 1st image

Enrollment Concerns: How Covid-19 is Impacting College Decisions

The Coronavirus has impacted every high school senior in the country and has changed how their year will end, but this virus also has many seniors re-thinking how their fall semester will begin. According to a recent survey highlighted in Inside Higher Ed, “One in 10 high school seniors who had planned to go to a four-year college prior to the coronavirus is likely to change their direction as a result of the outbreak.” Many students feel as though they are not receiving enough information about how the coronavirus is changing their prospective college.

In addition, more than half of the approximately 1,000 current or rising college students surveyed said their family’s financial situation had been affected by Covid-19. With the unemployment numbers skyrocketing, colleges are worried families won’t be able to pay everyday expenses and will need to make tough choices when it comes to enrollment for the fall. Many colleges are trying to give entering freshmen more time to make their decisions by moving their deposit deadlines back to June 1st and are busy reviewing financial aid requests and appeals.

Standardized tests continue to be postponed for current high school juniors. As of now, the next weekend SAT administration is scheduled for September. For the latest news from The College Board, click here. The ACT also continues to adapt its weekend administration. Please click here for additional information.

Another piece to this puzzle for high school seniors is end-of-year transcripts. Some schools are considering a pass/fail grading system for remote learning - despite starting the year with number or letter grades. This could pose more of an issue for juniors as these are the grades they will be submitting to colleges in the fall, but certainly seniors are concerned about merit aid and how pass/fail may impact their ability to qualify. College admission offices have been considering their review process and are preparing to work with the information they have from their students.

For more information Inside Higher Ed has been sharing coronavirus updates as they relate to education on their website with recent topics including:

  • Federal stimulus distribution to colleges and universities
  • Students testing positive for coronavirus while at universities
  • The 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge University Edition
  • A federal jobs bill and education

Students should reach out to their admissions counselors and financial aid representatives at the specific schools they are either already admitted to or are considering attending for fall 2020 to get the most up-to-date information.

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School Counseling and COVID 19

Being a school counselor during a regular school year certainly poses challenges, but this year is no ordinary year. Schools and personnel are tacking new obstacles with online learning, remote counseling, and continuing to simply keep students engaged with their school community. Venturing into these unknowns can perhaps feel a little scary and overwhelming, but here are some small pieces of advice to help in this time.

Open new doors. Take advantage of this time and connect with some students who may feel more comfortable talking to you through an online platform versus coming to your office. Like it or not, some students, no matter the circumstances, are worried about going to the School Counselor’s office on their own. During this time, these students may feel more at ease communicating with you as they don’t need to walk through “that door.” Building this relationship now may also take away some of those nerves for that student to then be able to visit you face-to-face once back in the office. While a student may feel more comfortable with this new format, it could be you who is feeling a bit apprehensive about counseling online. Our friends at ASCA have some advice to help ease your mind.

Working from home doesn’t mean more work. Don’t feel like you should be doing more simply because you are not in your office. While you are counseling from home, don’t allow your entire day to become your work day. It can be very easy to slip into working past school hours (even more-so than you already do), but even with putting in additional time, still begin and end your work day as you typically would if you were still at school. This will help to maintain some “normalcy” during this very unusual time. It could also help keep a line between giving your time to your students and your own family time. This balance can be tricky even during a regular school year, but it is especially so now with all aspects of your life blended together under one roof. A recent article in Forbes magazine addresses some of these family/work balancing act issues and provides some tips to help you face the obstacles which may arise.

Practice self-care. Just as it you (should) practice during a regular school year, continue your self-care routine to keep yourself balanced. As much as you know students want/need structure, so do you. Maintain your routine and habits that bring you clarity and joy; running, yoga, painting, or baking. Perhaps you get a little crazy during the school year and don’t have time for the “indulgence” of self-care, now may be the perfect time to start (while maintaining your social distance).

Remember you are not in this alone. NH School counselors come together! At the NHHEAF Network, the CCP counselors have created new Remote Learning Resources including a multitude of college and career curriculum, webinar presentations, and links to our college planning literature for all ages! Please feel free to include these resources when reaching out to your students and parents and connect with your CCP College Counselor to discuss other opportunities which might be available for your school community.

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Changes Coming to ACT Test

Since the early 20th century, standardized tests have been a tool to help colleges and universities measure a student’s academic abilities. As education has evolved, so has the testing process. A few years ago the SAT made changes to their scoring and procedure and now it is the ACT’s turn to update their process.

Starting with the September 2020 ACT test, there will be three major changes coming:

Section retesting: For the first time since the ACT started, students who have already completed a full ACT test will be allowed to retake individual sections of the test rather than taking the entire test again.

Online testing and faster results: Students will now have the opportunity to choose whether they will take the test online or on paper on national ACT test days. With the new online option, ACT will be able to get results to students in approximately 2 days versus the 2 weeks it currently takes with the paper administration.

ACT “superscore”: ACT will report a “superscore” to colleges for students who have taken the test or sections of the test more than once. This is a similar model to the SAT which has been “superscoring” for many years now. ACT made this change as research suggests “superscoring is actually more predictive of how students will perform in their college courses than other scoring methods.”

The test itself will remain the same with English, math, reading, science, and writing sections, but ACT does see the changes as necessary to “meet students in the digital world where they live.” For more information go to ACT.org or read this article from NCAN.

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Admissions Offices Care About Students’ Character

In a recent survey, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, in collaboration with the Character Collaborative, asked 447 college admission offices to rank various factors affecting admission decisions.

Not surprisingly, academic performance, strength of the high school curriculum, and admission test scores ranked as the most important factors in admission decisions. However, 44.4% of respondents ranked "positive character traits" as being of moderate importance, and 25.9% ranked these traits as having considerable importance.

College admission officers who considered character to be an important factor in admission decisions cited using applicant essays and/or personal statements, teacher and counselor recommendations, and the nature of extracurricular activities and/or work experience to make these determinations. Be sure to check out the CCP's Summer Professional Development Workshops to sharpen your letter of recommendation writing skills!

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Summer Professional Development Workshops for School Counselors

In response to local and federal health guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for College Planning (CCP) has postponed all scheduled professional development workshops for school counselors through May 2020. Rest assured, we have a full schedule of upcoming workshops beginning this summer! Please join us in our Concord conference center to learn from local experts in their field, earn your professional development hours, and exchange information with your colleagues. Register for the following workshops online:

Accessibility Services for College Students - Rescheduled from April 17 to December 11, 2020 (9 a.m. to noon) Join a panel of college accessibility service professionals as they discuss the ways in which students with accommodations, adaptations, and/or modifications made through an IEP or 504 plan can successfully transition to college. Topics of discussion include the differences between high school and college accommodations, the role of the school counselor in the college process, when and how a student should apply for college accommodations, a student's role in the process, and more.

Welcome to the CCP: A Workshop for Elementary and Middle School Counselors - Rescheduled from May 8 to September 25, 2020 (9 a.m. to noon) This workshop is for the new or seasoned counselor who is interested in learning more about the resources available through the Center for College Planning (CCP). In this workshop, we will introduce our two newest initiatives for K - 8 students - “College Family Feud” and “Claim Your Future”. We will also review our downloadable curriculum created for school counselors to present in their schools and tour our early awareness website, www.nhcollegeclub.com.

College Boot Camp for Professionals: Letters of Recommendation & College Essay - July 16, 2020 (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) Writing a "standout" letter of recommendation or college essay means you and your students need to know what colleges are looking for (and what they are not). This summer workshop - designed for school counselors and high school teachers - will explore strategies for helping your students to pick a strong college essay topic, avoid the "pitfalls" of a weak essay, and offers tips on writing an impactful letter of recommendation. Our experienced college counselors will use "real-life" examples to discuss recent trends in college essay topic choice and will offer tips for helping your students rise above the pack. We will discuss the latest developments in recommendation format, writing letters for all types of students, and how the letter of recommendation is used in the admissions process. Join us for a day of interactive learning.

Financial Aid Workshop - July 30, 2020 (9 a.m. to noon) Join us for our Financial Aid Workshop for School Counselors. This workshop provides a comprehensive and easy-to-understand overview of the financial aid process, the role of the school counselor, resources for students and families, and updates to the process. We invite new school counselors (or experienced counselors who are interested in a refresher) to join us for an introduction to financial aid where we will cover the different types of financial aid, necessary application forms, scholarship opportunities, special circumstances, and general funding options.

We will continue to update our website with more professional development opportunities as they become available. As always, our CCP college counselors are available to answer your questions! Please call us at 888.747.2382, ext. 119 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. We look forward to seeing you all soon. Stay healthy and safe during these difficult times!

Questions from the Road

Each year, the CCP counselors travel throughout the state of New Hampshire providing over 300 presentations in public, private, and charter high schools. We love when families ask us questions, and in this e-newsletter feature we share one of those questions with you. For further clarification, please call us at 888.747.2382, ext. 119.

Our spring 2020 travel season was cut short, but that did not mean we were short on questions. Instead, our CCP counselors have been hosting virtual funding options appointments with students and their families to review financial aid award letters and help them make their final decisions. One question that keeps coming up is “I have good credit and until COVID-19 hit, I was gainfully employed. Now I am furloughed (or laid off), will I still be allowed to co-sign loans for my student who is starting college in the fall?”

So, the short answer is “it depends.” Traditionally, to be a co-signer on a private student loan, the co-signer needs to provide a paystub (or two) from within 60 days prior to application. If the parent is not back to work at the time of applying for the loan, it would be necessary to check off he or she is currently ‘unemployed’ and this may result in a denial. Of course, like everything in the world of higher education, we say may because there is no one hard and fast answer and each lender may handle this situation differently in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is some flexibility for families if they are hoping to return to work by summer time. Most colleges don’t post their bills until the end of June, meaning a student can feasibly wait until early July to apply for a private student loan. If that parent is back to work by then, they will have a paystub to show and can now apply as the co-signer. If this parent is not back to work by then, they can explore whether the other parent or another family member with current income may be able to act as a co-signer.

Alternatively, this family may be able to apply and qualify for a Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS Loan) from the federal government. Although this loan is very different from a private student loan as the entire loan is always in the parent’s name, the federal government may approve a family with limited or no income. So even if a parent is denied as a co-signer on a private student loan, they may be approved to borrow the money in their own name in a PLUS loan.

And lastly, we always remind families that they do not “marry” any product for more than one year at a time. So if this year they need to go the PLUS loan route, they can always apply for a private loan to finance the next year or vice versa. The landscape of financing college is fluid, as is the family’s economic situation, so knowing all the options can help a family through this stressful time.

Questions that make you go Hmmm...

In this popular e-newsletter feature, we take a look at what might be a complex college admissions or financial aid question or situation we've recently encountered that has made us take a moment and think about the correct response. If you would like further clarification on the response, please call us at 888.747.2382, ext. 119.

Situation: A high school junior is researching potential colleges. His mom (who is divorced and is on permanent disability) says that he should apply to all “full need” colleges because she heard that they will give them all the financial aid they will need to pay for him to go to college. When he spends time with his dad (who is remarried), his father says he shouldn’t apply to “full need” schools because he and his wife make too much money and they won’t get any aid. The student is confused about what he should do and to which type of colleges he should apply.

What could you suggest?

  1. Suggest mom is right and he should only apply to colleges who say they will meet “full need” as those are the only colleges that will give him any financial aid.
  2. Suggest dad is right and he should NOT apply to any “full need” colleges since he will not get any financial aid from them.
  3. Suggest that applying to a variety of colleges will allow for a diversity of financial aid options to choose from in the spring. Advise the student full-need, private and public, in-state and out-of-state colleges could all look at his family financial circumstances and academics differently.
  4. Suggest he apply to every college he wants to and know that the money will just work out.

Correct Answer- C

Both mom and dad have half of the information right...unfortunately, that means both have the information half wrong. Mom being divorced and on fixed income could mean that for schools only requiring the FAFSA, the student may receive significant need-based financial aid. But, where dad is correct, is many full-need colleges will require a CSS Profile form in addition to the FAFSA, so both dad and step-mom’s income will also be taken into consideration. So, what first needs to be addressed is the student could receive merit-based money at most colleges if he meets their requirements - and that would have nothing to do with mom or dad’s income. Second, with programs like the Granite Guarantee, if the student is Pell Eligible through mom’s fixed income (as these schools require a student to file only the FAFSA), he could go tuition free to one of the NH state colleges. Lastly, there are so many different ways colleges award both need and merit-based money that applying to a variety of colleges could garner him the most viable options in the spring.