How COVID-19 Will Impact College Planning

COVID-19 has impacted everything, and college planning is no different. At the close of the 2019-2020 academic school year, we saw high school seniors partake in Zoom graduations and drive-by celebrations. And as of this writing, the cases of the virus were surging, making it possible we might see the same type of thing at the close of the 2020-2021 academic year.

So what does that mean for your clients’ college planning?

Make a plan for standardized tests. In 2020, the CFP Board allowed CFP candidates to take their exams online for the first time ever. The same thing happened with the ACT test, but not yet with the SAT. Although some colleges are chucking the requirement for ACT and SAT scores, others haven’t yet. If your clients’ high school students are eyeing a school that requires the scores, they’ll have to devise a game plan for these exams.

Check up on schools’ costs and financial health. Just like many other organizations, institutions of higher learning took a hit during the COVID-19 crisis. Colleges and universities already have high sticker prices but may raise prices or add fees to make up for the financial losses. Get a feel for what the schools of choice are charging. Edmit (edmit.me/browse), a tool that shows how much colleges charge, how much students pay out-of-pocket, on average, and average aid, among other things, is helpful for determining the most affordable school for your clients’ kids.

Plan approach to visits. Flying might still be risky when it comes time for campus visits, but perhaps in-person visits at local schools or schools within reasonable driving distance might still be feasible. Check to see if there are online campus tours for schools your clients would normally need to fly to.

Plan for the worst-case scenario. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 lasted over two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s not to say we’re going to be in this pandemic for another year, but we might. So if the vaccine isn’t readily available or reliable, and your clients still don’t feel comfortable sending their kids off to in-person classes, have them sit down with their children and explore what that means. Maybe it means a gap year. Maybe it means more remote learning. Either way, the subject should be broached.