xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Coronavirus adds uncertainty to admissions process for McDaniel College, enrollment for Carroll Community College

Walkways are devoid of people and campus is largely empty at McDaniel College in Westminster Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
Walkways are devoid of people and campus is largely empty at McDaniel College in Westminster Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Across the country, the usual bustle at colleges in the springtime has been replaced by emptiness and silence, with campuses closed to in-person learning due to the coronavirus. Among the many absent groups are the high school students and families that usually flock to campuses this time of year for tours and admitted-student days.

McDaniel College Vice President for Enrollment Management Janelle Holmboe said the biggest challenge for admissions is that they can’t have students tour campus. This affects seniors making their final choice between schools they have been accepted to, and younger students trying to narrow down a list of where to apply.

Advertisement

McDaniel has been looking into virtual “visits” online, like many of its peer institutions across the country, and has been conducting one-on-one interviews between students and admissions counselors.

Walkways are devoid of people and campus is largely empty at McDaniel College in Westminster Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
Walkways are devoid of people and campus is largely empty at McDaniel College in Westminster Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

The challenge is to find ways to build in more personal interaction. For example, “How do you make sure that faculty, who are already doing a tremendously heavy lift getting all of their courses online, are still available for admitted students to answer their questions and to talk to them about what they might experience here in their education?” Holmboe asked.

Advertisement

“We say in our office all the time, you know, recruitment doesn’t happen in April. It happens in September, October, November, December when you are hopefully reaching out to students. So I think we’re going to see how true that is this year, frankly," she said.

Spring is “generally a very exciting time in the process,” of college admissions, but this year, much of that excitement is uncertainty instead," said Jordan Kanarek, managing counselor with CollegeWise, a nationwide college admissions counseling organization.

“This is unprecedented and uncharted territory,” he said. “It’s new for colleges, too, not something they’re used to.”

Virtual visits

Across the country most schools have already finished reviewing applications for the class that will start in fall 2020. March 26 was “Ivy Day,” when many top-ranked colleges send out decisions, and marked the season when students get serious about deciding between schools to which they were accepted.

May 1 is typically known as “Decision Day” in the world of college admissions, and is generally the deadline for students to submit an acceptance to the college of their choice and make a deposit.

As with many schools, McDaniel’s enrollment deadline has already been moved back to June 1.

“I think that we’re all trying to do our best on behalf of the students to give them more time to make an informed choice," Holmboe said of McDaniel’s admissions process,. “But that means that any predictive model or any historical data that we have, you kind of throw out the window.”

Kanarek said schools all over the country will see unpredictability in their “yield rate,” the measurement of how many students accepted to a school will end up actually attending. In a normal year, colleges have some ability to estimate this percentage for in-state and out-of-state students. “This year there’s no way to know," he said, noting that Ivy League and top technical schools will likely see less change than others.

Colleges care about the yield rate because it plays into a college’s ranking in the U.S. News and World Report rankings of schools. Schools that accept a greater number of applicants are typically ranked as less competitive. Kanarek said this ranking does not correlate to how successful a graduate will be in life, but schools pay attention to it because students and families pay attention to it.

A visiting student to McDaniel may be able to sit in on class during a typical visit. That isn’t possible with virtual learning because the platform the college uses requires login credentials and is only open to faculty and enrolled students. Holmboe thinks many faculty would be willing to have prospective students in their virtual class if they could. “Our McDaniel faculty are so student-focused, really unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been,” she said.

For now, admissions has been working on doing live chats with faculty to answer questions for prospective students. And more digital content to help students connect to faculty is in the works, but she said the experience of being in the classroom can’t really be replicated. It’s “a significant challenge to overcome and there’s really no good alternative.”

Admitted students typically choose their class schedule at a summer program called “McDaniel Local” where they stay one night and two days on campus to get acquainted with the area. The college has not yet made a determination about whether to go forward with McDaniel Local this year.

Advertisement
Babylon Great Hall, normally bustling with students, faculty and staff is empty, save for a staging area for computers and technology to be distributed to support online learning at Carroll Community College in Westminster Thursday, April 9, 2020.
Babylon Great Hall, normally bustling with students, faculty and staff is empty, save for a staging area for computers and technology to be distributed to support online learning at Carroll Community College in Westminster Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Community college impact

Carroll Community College’s process is different because CCC is an open enrollment college, meaning the process is noncompetitive and anyone with a high school diploma or GED can begin pursuing an associate’s degree there. Registration for summer and fall classes begins soon. Returning students and veterans can register for spring and summer classes beginning April 14 and new students can register beginning April 21. The school also offers training and certification programs for professionals with information at www.carrollcc.edu/CETregistration.

The college received additional workforce development funds and President James D. Ball said the school will continue to work closely with the county’s Business Employment Resource Center (BERC) to retrain individuals once the stay at home directive has passed.

“Unfortunately it may take a while to come out of this tragic health crisis," Ball said. "Our community should know that Carroll Community College is, and will continue to be, ready and able to serve those who decide to stay close to home to begin their degree, or access short-term training to weather the uncertain job market ahead.”

Ball said it is difficult to estimate the impact the virus will have on enrollment.

“We are hearing from families who had planned to attend residential colleges that they are rethinking those plans for next year due to the uncertainty of the year that lies ahead," he said. "Families are checking into options closer to home in case of continued disruption or for those driven by the financial imperative to retool their skill sets due to job loss in this rapidly changing economy.”

He said the school’s Financial Aid Office is staying abreast of grant programs and scholarships for those impacted by COVID-19. Their Foundation Office is offering emergency funds to help retain current students. More information on Carroll’s financial aid is available at www.carrollcc.edu/Costs-and-Aid/Scholarships/ or by calling 410-386-8437.

Looking further ahead

Admissions staffs predict the coronavirus will have an equal or greater effect on high school juniors in earlier stages of the application process.

Kanarek predicted less focus on test scores like the SAT or ACT in applications. Many testing dates throughout the spring were cancelled. Even if there are late summer and fall dates for test takers, that means many students won’t have the chance to take the test more than once, he said. That may push more schools to go test-optional. Once some schools do so, he hopes many more will follow.

Advertisement

McDaniel was already score-optional before this year.

Younger students are also missing out on college fairs and other opportunities to learn about the applications process and scholarships.

“It’s a huge time for us to get out to high schools and start to introduce ourselves to students," Holmboe said, noting that students “absolutely can and should feel comfortable” asking a school for things like connecting them with a professor or information about academic and campus life.

"We have a commitment to make sure that we expose them to whatever they need to make an informed decision.” she said. “So I would just encourage high school students not to feel like they can’t ask for things that they need to make an informed choice. And then it’s our responsibility on the college side to try and figure out how we deliver that to them within the constraints that we have.”

McDaniel is almost 40% first generation college students, said Holmboe, who emphasized that the current situation will be even more challenging for families that haven’t gone through the process before.

Campus, even parking, is largely vacant due to the coronavirus at McDaniel College in Westminster Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
Campus, even parking, is largely vacant due to the coronavirus at McDaniel College in Westminster Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

“We’re hopeful that all of us can can work together to help students who might be particularly vulnerable still understand that college is a very real possibility for them,” she said.

They are also watching closely the financial aspect of the coronavirus on families. Financial aid awards were determined by taxes filed far before the pandemic was declared and businesses began to close. She encouraged students to reach out to financial aid offices if they need support because their economic situation has changed.

Economic uncertainty can affect how far students are willing to travel for college. Studies showed in the recession of 2008 that students choose schools closer to home. In very early surveys, Holmboe said about 30% of seniors already admitted to college are thinking about changing previous college plans.

Holmboe added that a school closer to home might offer the chance to save money by commuting and a general sense of security because current events are unsettling and causing students to miss out on traditions they expected during their senior year of high school.

If families in Westminster or throughout Carroll County have questions about the college admissions process, they are welcome to reach out to McDaniel admissions staff, she said, even if they are not planning to go to McDaniel.

“We have a responsibility when we are in a small town," she said, “and we’re the college in a small town.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement