As the world has responded to the health threats associated with COVID-19, entering upon this new socially distant, shelter-in-place reality, I, too, have appreciated the COVID-19 memes. I, too, was touched by the Italians singing from their balconies. And I, too, have received a barrage of emails addressing various responses to COVID-19 from just a few organizations…
Their messages are timely, though the parallels are palpable:
[suggested preventative measures]
[Senior Level Official]
So, in an effort to move away from well-intended regurgitation, let’s cut straight to some action items and resources for students trying to make college decisions under such unprecedented set of circumstances.
Colleges and Universities around the world are being spurred into action, developing and refining new avenues for connecting with prospective students – it’s pretty profound, really. Looking beyond the immediate growing pains, these innovative solutions will leave college bound seniors better served as they make their college decisions for years to come. And if you are a college bound student this year, it begins with you.
As you continue in the college search process, either as a senior with decisions to make, a sophomore or junior just starting this process, or as a transfer student, I hope you lean into exploring these new solutions. And as you do, consider the following:
Create Your Community
As you search for what could be your college community, I encourage you to create a community of your own in the process. As you consider taking advantage of these virtual college search options, coordinate with your family or friends. Join these virtual conversations together. Coordinate a time to debrief with family and friends as you join the virtual college search. Because while you are currently being required to navigate this process away from many of the systems designed to support you through it, you need not do it alone.
Look & Listen
Of course, the content offered through Furman’s Office of Admissions and those of institutions around the world (facts, figures, testimonials, etc.) is important. But I would encourage you to look beyond the average class size and the application overview. Look at how colleges and universities are responding to the current climate. What alternatives have been offered to you, the prospective student? How are institutions currently supporting their current students? Are requirements being met, or are expectations being exceeded? Whatever the answers may be, you can expect that kind of care and attention as an enrolled student at that institution. There is much to be gleaned beyond the spoken and written word.
What’s Been Lost
As it pertains to your college search, not much. Campus Visit Information Sessions have become Virtual Visit Information Sessions (and let me tell you – the content is strikingly similar…). Tour guide anecdotes have evolved into Virtual Student Panels. The one-on-one student and faculty meetings you could have requested as a part of your visit to campus have taken on a new, digitized form. But the content is all there. The message hasn’t changed one bit.
Most notably lost in all this is your ability to be a silent observer during your visit to campus. At present, you no longer have the opportunity to visit to Dining Hall and simply be present as Furman students catch up with friends over a plate of DH cookies. You no longer get to be still on the Library Porch, watching the ebb and flow of students as 10:30am classes end and 11:30am classes begin. The “in-between” moments are missing. I know because our Furman students are speaking to that loss in their Virtual Student Panels. Listen to what they have to say. Listen to how they say it. Let them paint that picture for you.
When deciding whether to enroll at a certain college or university, students consider a surprising breadth of priorities. Most are concerned with engaged learning opportunities (research, internship, study away). Their families usually concern themselves with the finances. “Fit” is almost always a part of the conversation. However, in working with students and families as they make college decisions every spring, one thing has become evident: that list of priorities – everything that races in a student’s mind as they consider their college options – that list is entirely personal, unique to you, the student. And we want you to get your questions answered.
Three weeks into offering virtual visit options and Furman’s Admissions Office has already connected with over 200 students and families. Furthermore, Furman’s Admissions Office has about just as many Furman students, faculty, and staff on retainer to connect with prospective students and families – again, looking to get your questions answered.
Whatever your priorities are, COVID-19 has certainly made an impact on your college search process. The impact is indisputable, though perhaps not inherently negative. I know it feels unfair to some – unfair that a college-bound high school senior must decide on a college or university in relative isolation. Frankly, it is. However, as I have watched the events on March 2020 unfold and spill into early summer and potentially beyond, let us remember that which has proven true already: we are learning and adjusting together, and we will overcome and move forward together.
If you are a college bound student disillusioned because “plan A” is no longer an option in your college search process, contact your Furman Admissions Counselor. Allow us to share in this journey with you as we learn, adjust, overcome, and move forward together.
By Coady Shovlain, Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions