This past Friday was May 1, which in the higher education world is known as National College Decision Day. Based on a NACAC data set, more than 400 institutions have extended the deadline for admitted students to submit deposits to give families more time to make a decision in these uncertain times. Most of these deadlines have been moved to June 1, allowing families another month to assess the financial impact of the coronavirus as well as hopefully have a better understanding of what the freshman year that they are committing to will look like.
Decision-day challenges for international students
While the extra month is helpful for domestic families, it is unlikely that an additional 30 days will bring clarity for the international student population.The suspension of operations in consulates and embassies globally means that even if an international student is admitted and deposits, there is no guarantee that they will be able to get an appointment for a visa in time for a fall start on campus.
Colleges and universities interested in generating new international student enrollment during this time are finding creative solutions, such as:
1. Extended deadlines. Generally speaking in all AACRAO guidance related to COVID-19 and other crisis situations, AACRAO has recommended that institutions extend any deadline that they are able. The levels of disruption and uncertainty created by this crisis means that normal decision-making patterns in families will be disrupted. Flexibility of deadlines will ease student and family anxiety and allow time to gather necessary resources and documents.
2. Alternate start dates for international students. According to AACRAO COVID-19 Snapshot surveys, institutions are having conversations around alternate term dates for the fall for some or all students. In addition to supporting domestic students, consider that a later start might allow an international student more time to obtain a visa.
3. Giving your campus-based international cohort the option to move to spring. In this time of extreme uncertainty, making a fall cut decision and moving the cohort to the spring might help students solidify their plans and allow you to focus your resources for the fall to engage the students, create excitement and plan an extensive orientation for the spring.
4. Consider online enrollment. Many campuses do not actively market their online programs to international students. But International students enrolling in your online programs do not require a visa. If you are considering an online start to your fall, you may be able to enroll qualified international students who can later apply for an F-1 visa and convert to an on-campus enrollment after the crisis.
Whatever your solution, be sure to engage with the EducationUSA network of over 400 educational advising centers in 180 countries. This network continues to operate globally by shifting their presence on-line through virtual one-on-one and group advising sessions, webinars, virtual college fairs, and an enhanced on-line and social media presence. These important State Department partners can help you to find the right mix of creative solutions for students in their region.