May 1. For regular decision applicants, this date looms overhead, representing the deadline to decide where to go to college. Normally, this date works for the vast majority of students. This year, in light of the recent pandemic, Penn should adapt to global changes and push back this deadline.
Choosing where to apply to school is a difficult enough decision, sending many high school juniors on a nationwide tour of campuses, learning the ins and outs of their potential homes for the next four years. This, however, is all very theoretical. The question of “will I get in?” is still up in the air. By the end of March, however, the unknown is removed from the equation; all the admissions offers are out.
Under normal circumstances universities and colleges offer admitted students days throughout April, inviting students to come tour the campus one more time through a new lens, one without the stress of hearing the words “denied,” “waitlisted,” or “deferred.” Penn calls these opportunities Quaker Days, but in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the event has been cancelled this year. This isn’t an isolated occurrence though, as admitted students days across the nation have been cancelled, leaving high school seniors with fewer resources and additional stress.
Immense change occurs almost every day during this pandemic and students are facing new worries as they must self-motivate to complete online classes. High school seniors have been stripped of many rites of passage already, including prom, graduation, and all the final moments that come in these months. Don’t they deserve to have some pressure taken off of college decisions?
A big factor in many people’s decision making would be events like Quaker Days. No virtual tour can take the place of strolling down Locust Walk for the first time or seeing if you can picture yourself walking from Van Pelt to the Quad. In my own experience, I couldn’t commit to Penn until after a final visit. No matter how sure I was, I knew I needed to be able to visualize myself there and in April I was able to do just that, creating an easy conclusion to the long and strenuous college process.
I now imagine students will be missing what is intangible about a college visit. These seniors won’t be able to test the atmosphere of the school, to look around and see their potential peers, to see if this is a place where they feel that they can make friends and prosper over the next four years. It is an unfortunate result of the current world circumstances that requires additional accommodations to be made.
With this extra time, prospective students could weigh their options more heavily. For students who must consider financial aid packages in their decisions, this extra time would be important. The economic repercussions of coronavirus could be affecting family finances. Students themselves could be facing health issues from the pandemic, or their families or friends could be. Penn doesn’t know the realities of prospective students’ lives during these emotionally, physically, and mentally trying times. Instead of treating this stage of the college process as usual, Penn should be more accommodating, paving the way for other elite institutions to demonstrate the same sympathy.
In a time when Penn has been forced to make numerous difficult decisions, here is a chance to make the right one. Push back the May 1 deadline and give the high school seniors the time they deserve.
ISABELLA GLASSMAN is a freshman in the college from Suffern, New York studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.