May 1 Decision Day — Not!

May 1 date for blog

May1 has traditionally been the deadline for students to tell colleges where they plan to attend college in the fall. This year, however, that deadline should be considered flexible. More than that, students and their families should be advising the colleges they wish to attend that they will be postponing their decision until they know more about whether the college will open for the fall semester, whether courses will be taught in person or online and whether there will be dormitory facilities available. (There are lots of other questions, but these will do to start.)

Survey after survey has revealed that many students are very reluctant to commit without knowing what the college will be able to provide in the fall. You should be too.

A poll conducted in March by the marketing and research firm SimpsonScarborough revealed dramatic findings for high school seniors who were planning to attend college before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Twenty percent of those surveyed believed that because of Covid-19 it is likely or highly likely they will not attend a four-year college in the fall, but will, instead, attend a community college, take courses online or not attend college.

Even students who have already paid deposits are rethinking their decision. A survey of 1,171 American high school seniors released today reveal that 12% of students who paid a deposit changed their minds and no longer plan to attend a four-year college full time. Art & Science Group, which did this survey, also reported in a press release that “for all but 400 institutions that have extended their deadline to June 1, over four-fifths of non-depositors have expressed doubts about their ability to attend their first-choice school.”

While it is difficult to contact colleges by phone because they are closed, families should be contacting the colleges the student wishes to attend in order to get clarification about these and other matters. That said, the fact is that nearly all colleges are still trying to decide what they will be able to provide when college reopens. In these circumstances, the traditional May 1 deadline cannot be what it used to be, nor should it.