Prospective University students face difficult college decisions in light of campus closures

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 4:31pm

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Design by Dory Tung

Prospective University of Michigan student David Chu was looking forward to touring the University’s campus for his first time before making a college decision — until the coronavirus outbreak changed his plans.

Chu is from a suburb near Chicago, Illinois, and was accepted to the Ross School of Business. Because of campus event closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, he was unable to visit the University, which made his decision on which college to attend more difficult.

“There are a lot of schools that I applied to that I wasn’t really sure, and even now, there are a lot of schools that I feel like I need to visit in order to make my decision, and Michigan is one of them,” Chu said. “Not being able to visit the schools does make it harder for me to decide.”

The University canceled all in-person admissions events and is no longer conducting tours during the pandemic. The University’s admissions staff remains fully available by phone and email.

Betsy Brown, director of integrated marketing communications at the Office of Enrollment Management, wrote in an email to The Daily that students should remain in contact with the University despite the distance.

“We do want prospective and admitted students to stay in touch with us,” Brown wrote. “In many cases our admissions counselors are reaching out individually to students to address any of their questions or concerns. We also remain virtually open and available if students want to contact us.”

Brown also detailed how the University is in the process of developing virtual resources for prospective students, which include a video narration of the information session, Campus Day presentations, alumni videos, social media interactions and a 360-degree video tour of the campus. 

“We have a number of opportunities in the works for prospective and admitted students to access information,” Brown wrote. “One exciting resource that we’ve been working closely with Michigan Creative on is a 360 video tour of campus. We’ve done a lot of videotaping already in collaboration with our campus partners, but unfortunately, that work is stalled for the moment. We’ll get back to it just as soon as students and faculty are back on campus.”

Due to the stalled production, Brown said the 360-degree campus tour will not be available for current high school seniors, but rather future prospective students, faculty and staff looking to get a sense of the University’s community.

Brown also said the University will proceed as normal with the enrollment deposit deadline on May 1, while allowing those with extenuating circumstances to request extensions. Some universities across the country have begun to move the deposit deadline to June 1, giving students additional time to commit.

Options for summer events are still being discussed, and notifications of any cancellations will be sent out at least a month in advance, Brown said. 

LSA senior David Dorsky has been a Campus Day leader for four years and a tour guide for three years. He said touring the University allows prospective and incoming students to experience college life among other students.

“A lot of people make their decisions off of how it feels to actually be on campus amongst these students,” Dorsky said. “You can read about it so much in a brochure and watch videos about the University, but to actually be on campus is just a whole other feeling that really gives you a sense of the University and the culture and the vibe here for prospective students.”

Prospective LSA student Stella McCabe-Soares is from New York City and said she was able to tour some schools near her home, but due to the distance, she was planning on touring the University after she was accepted.

“I definitely would have wanted to do a tour,” McCabe-Soares said. “I think touring is valuable. Although it’s not the most accurate way to see if you would like the school or anything, it’s nice to go there because you could be living there.”

Faith Richardson, an incoming Ross student, is from Berrien Springs, Mich, and was able to visit the campus before classes were moved to remote learning. She said how the University has responded to the coronavirus outbreak is also a factor she is keeping in mind while making her decision.

“It does make a difference in how the colleges respond to their students, because I have friends at Michigan, and I can hear their complaints, what they liked and what they didn’t like,” Richardson said. “And I’ve heard a lot of people saying this will affect how future students view the school because this is a crucial time with actual issues.”

As college decision day approaches, students are faced with difficult decisions on where to attend. And for some, like Chu and McCabe-Soares, they have to decide without being able to visit in-person amid coronavirus closures.

“If I choose Michigan, it almost feels like I don’t know what I’m getting myself into just because I don’t know the campus background and I don’t really understand how I’ll fit in,” Chu said. “There are a lot of other schools that I feel like I needed a second visit to find out if it is a good fit for me, and now not being able to visit those schools makes my decision really hard.”

Reporter Kristina Zheng can be reached at krizheng@umich.edu.