Four Things to Consider When Picking a College During & After the Pandemic

Like it or not the pandemic has changed the way business is done, and that includes higher education. Find out how to pick a school during & after the pandemic.

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As vaccines are distributed nationwide and globally, businesses open up, people may begin to return to offices and schools. Still, “normalcy” is perhaps a few more months away at least. And the pandemic is not quite through yet. But humans, as is often the case, are in a hurry. All of which raises an important question. Has the pandemic changed anything? Are there new things to consider when making a choice about what store to shop at? New things to consider when going out to dinner? New things to consider when picking a college?

These are important and engaging questions, the last one being perhaps the largest of the trio. Even though the pandemic may be “ending” soon that doesn’t mean it doesn’t alter or affect how a student should pick their college. As we’ve covered before, delaying college can unfortunately cost students. Those students who took a gap semester or gap year during the pandemic might no longer be able to afford to.

And, even though the pandemic was tremendously difficult, perhaps it unlocked or opened the door to a new sense of working flexibility for some folks and even students. In the tech sector, many companies plan on keeping employees remote throughout 2022 or even going the option of remote work on a semi-permanent or permanent basis. Could the same possibility exist for a college education? In any case, students picking schools should still take a few things into account when picking a college during and after the pandemic.

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Support Systems

When the pandemic struck, one of the aspects that many colleges weren’t prepared for was the quick jump to being fully remote, online only. For faculty and school administrators, having meetings or teaching classes on Zoom or asynchronously was certainly a drastic change, but the effect was also felt with regard to student services. Financial aid, tutors, and more weren’t necessarily prepared to move completely online, which resulted in delays for students who may not have been able to get the support they needed.

So for the student applying to college during and after the pandemic…

Look for strong, personalized student services that treat you as much like the human being that you are as possible. When you feel detached from your classmates and peers it’s important to be able to speak to someone else, on Zoom or on the phone, and having capable student services that can go from in-person to online is paramount. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times pointed out that enrollment has dropped at California community colleges. One possible reason is that, in the transition from in-person to online, students didn’t feel like they got the support they needed.

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Job Relevance

Some students know exactly what they want to study; they have it all figured out, with plans, ideas, step-by-step guides for what to do at what stage of learning. But many students aren’t entirely sure what they want to study. They attend college as a means of discovery, but also potentially to find a good career that will pay for their other passions.

For the student like that, it’s important to consider the offerings of the school. Does the school offer programs that are relevant to today’s technology reliant marketplace? Are the courses cutting edge, with professors working in the field in which they teach? This was important before the pandemic but its value has only grown. A student quoted in that L.A. Times article noted that he went to college because “if you go to college, you get a better job, then you get paid more.” For the student like this, picking a college with relevant programs and professors, coursework that is modern, is paramount.

We have a host of blogs on the fields and jobs that are worth pursuing in 2021 and beyond; some of the highlights are: cybersecurity, many medical positions, engineering of various sorts, etc.

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Dr. Vince Rodriguez, Vice President of Instruction at Coastline College, told me that, considering a college, one thing to look out for is experience in online learning. The New York Times recently reported that online school, at all ages, will remain, even after the pandemic. So online learning is with us, which is why Dr. Rodriguez’s advice is so salient.

Flexibility is probably the most important consideration. Covid-19 may be with us for some time and there always remains the possibility of other pandemics, other disasters. It’s important to pick a college that can be flexible, as flexible as colleges ask their students to be. Flexibility, adaptability, are critical when considering your college. You need to be flexible, but you need the college to be flexible too.

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Of course you should pick a quality school, one that supports your learning, offers an array of programs and courses, and helps you grow as a student. But it’s also worth considering the exact quality of the kind of learning that you are paying for. For example, if your school is online, is it online “in-person,” as in over Zoom, with the professor taking attendance or speaking into the camera as you listen. Or, is it asynchronous, with assigned materials for the week that are guided by the professor but that you are responsible for managing, taking in, and turning in completed?

Some of these approaches will work better for some students than others. But for the student with a busy schedule who wants to get their work done and not have to worry about being on a Zoom or in a classroom at a certain time the asynchronous approach offers much flexibility, as I mentioned above.

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Wrappin' It Up

Schools that offer their students the chance to learn remotely, as well as providing student services (as mentioned above) that help those students succeed, are good choices because they give students options. And in the closed-off world of the pandemic, options are something we can all get behind.

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