Coronavirus Impact: Why the Class of 2021 Should Be Worried

class of 2021

We all feel for our Class of 2020 seniors right now. They’re missing out on many of the traditional milestones and rights of passage normally enjoyed as their high school years come to an end. We also have no envy as they find themselves trying to picture what their first semester in college will look like given the uncertainty brought on by the current pandemic. But what about the current high school juniors, the current class of 2021? Really, we should be equally concerned for how COVID-19 will impact their options as they begin their college search. Here’s why:

Gap Year Log Jam

While it’s still a bit early to know for sure, all indications are that a significant number of current high school seniors will choose to defer their enrollment at the institution they originally planned to attend. Some parents are unwilling to pay full-price tuition for the perceived likelihood of online instruction for Fall 2020. Even if colleges reopen, with COVID-19 still widespread and an unlikely vaccination before August, some parents are uncomfortable with the health risks associated with living in close quarters like college dormitories, classrooms, and dining halls. And some simply can’t afford the tuition this year after their investment portfolios just tanked. So for many high school seniors and for various reasons, the gap year option has emerged as a desirable alternative.

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To pursue the gap year, students who have received offers of admission and committed to attend a university will now request that the university defer their enrollment to Fall 2021 instead of Fall 2020. If approved (and requests to defer are usually approved), these students have already been offered admission so they become the first students to fill spots for students enrolling in 2021…which is bad news for current high school juniors. Here’s why:

If a university had an enrollment target of 1000 freshmen in 2021 but 200 students from 2020 were deferred to enroll in 2021 instead, that university now only has 800 spots open instead of 1000. The competition for those spaces just became more intense for the Class of 2021.

Fewer Spaces to Fill

Sure, some universities will enroll a smaller class than intended this year and just add those empty spaces from their 2020 entering class to the enrollment target for 2021. But most competitive universities are not built that way. Most of the more competitive institutions will go ahead and fill their 2020 spaces with students from their waitlists; yes, while some students will defer this year, others will not. There will always be students happy to take a spot at what was their “reach” school.

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Most competitive universities will still enroll a full class for 2020 even after they’ve granted deferrals for 2021. That’s what makes it so tough for the Class of 2021 – especially those planning to apply to competitive universities. In all likelihood, there will be fewer spaces available for the Class of 2021 thanks to deferments.

So to the seniors, yes we feel for you. It’s a bummer of a year. But I may be even more concerned for high school juniors. They will pay a different kind of price for the trickle-down impacts of COVID-19.

CampusChat Live: The Class of 2021

We're talking about the college admissions hurdles we foresee stacking up for the Class of 2021. Are you a rising senior or a parent of one? Listen in and ask questions! We'll answer them.

Posted by Smart College Visit on Thursday, May 14, 2020
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