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Impact of COVID-19 on Fall 2020 College Admissions

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Prospective international students planning to apply to foreign universities for Fall 2020 face huge uncertainty. For students who have already applied to universities and are eagerly awaiting their admissions responses, there is a growing worry that the coronavirus will affect admissions decisions.

So, what does it mean for international students who have got admissions to colleges in the U.S. and Europe?  Should they start looking at an alternate plan or get ready for joining the college in fall 2020?

Given, it is too early for any country to know if they have won the battle against the virus, but the China experience shows that it is about 10-12 weeks when any country starts to get a control on the pandemic and start opening up the social distancing controls put in place. If you assume the U.S. and Europe are just starting this 12-week period in mid-March, they should be able to get good control by the end of May and early June.

Is COVID-19 going to affect Admission Chances?

Top US colleges like Princeton, Brown, USC, etc. have confirmed that the COVID-19 will not affect the application outcome. The same goes for European universities as well. ‘We want to assure students that grades will be equally as valid as those in previous years, and their hard work will be rewarded and fairly recognised. There is no reason for the usual admissions cycle to be disrupted. ‘I am pleased Universities of UK has confirmed institutions will be flexible and do all they can to support students to progress to higher education.’ – Michelle Donelan, University Minister, UK (quoted on UCAS).

Once the pandemic is in control, most countries are not going to open the borders to visitors instantly and may require many visitors to get a negative test result either before applying for the visa or before boarding a flight and not to mention a quarantine when they land into their destination country.

What is going to happen to the admission for fall 2020 if the coronavirus situation doesn’t get better?

Here is the response from Prof. Pranav BhounsuleAsst. Professor at the University of Illinois at ChicagoIf the coronavirus situation leads to travel restrictions in Fall 2020, then it would probably be the first time that the Universities have had to deal with this. There are no rules in place for a work-around in such a situation, so we can say nothing conclusively. So if the problem persists till Fall 2020, would it be possible to have online courses? The rules allow international students to take only 1 course (~3 credit) online per semester. A temporary policy chance might make this possible but it seems unlikely.

If online courses are not possible, then it would not be fair to cancel admissions. Instead, it is more likely that students will be told to join either in Spring 2021 or Fall 2021. Many schools have the option to defer admission by a semester or a year, and it seems like the most viable option.

What should International Students do Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

Here is a 3-step plan to get prepared for starting your next phase of higher education in August or September 2020.

Step 1)

 Make sure you make your decision on the college you want to join and accept the decision. Once you accept the decision, colleges will send you the I-20 form (for US Universities) when they are open or when they start processing the acceptances. Most of the embassies and consulates in many countries are not issuing any visas at this time. So, no need to panic and historically, we have seen, students getting I-20 in June also are able to apply for visas and start their college year in August or September.

Step 2)

 Ensure you are able to complete the senior year or current degree in your country by summer. Given many countries, except for China, are just facing the Coronavirus crisis and may still have months ahead of them before it subsides. Many countries are closing schools and colleges, delaying the final exams and boards. Hopefully, the current crisis will be behind all of the world by summer; and the schools, colleges will be able to move forward with the completion of the year and

Step 3)

 Get ready for a short preparation season for you to apply for the visa, get your booking, say your goodbyes, purchase belongings, etc. In prior years, many students would have their I-20 in April and May, apply for a visa in May, June and get their flight reservations, everything ready by end of July.Now, prepare for all this to get packed into July and August, if the pandemic is under control.