Making a decision about which undergraduate program to attend can be a difficult task in any individual year. However, the decision has an added layer of difficulty considering the impact of the past year’s pandemic. Undoubtedly, this year’s events have led colleges and universities to have to adapt quickly to rapidly changing circumstances. This means that students should undoubtedly take into account a school’s response to the pandemic when choosing a school.
Keep in mind that despite the amelioration of the pandemic over the past months, its effects will likely last into the following year and/or years. Here is a list of a few things to keep in mind when choosing an undergraduate program in the midst of the global pandemic. Please note that these are merely recommendations and suggestions for undergraduate study–the ultimate choice is yours!
As in any other year, a school’s cost is important, being that it is generally a bad idea to take out more money in loans than necessary. Make sure to check your financial aid offers from each school carefully, asking financial aid advisors at each school for clarification if needed.
Additionally, consider whether or not you received any scholarships from schools. Scholarships can potentially make a student more appealing to the job market, which is important in times of economic uncertainty.
Housing affordability and accessibility is important in ensuring that you have a stable form of housing throughout your time as an undergraduate. We suggest browsing a university’s housing website to see how many years of guaranteed housing they offer. Often, schools do not offer more than 2-3 years of guaranteed housing.
Make sure to also do a quick apartment search around the campus to see if the apartments are affordable for your third and fourth years of school, when housing is not guaranteed.
During this past year, it was more important than ever that schools accommodate its students’ needs, including their medical, financial, and personal well-being. When choosing a school, consider whether or not the institution valued its students’ well-being in such a way. Did the school provide mental health counseling for the trauma accompanying the pandemic? Did the school provide grants in order to provide students with an extra source of income?
Although it is uncertain whether or not many schools will hold in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year, you should still consider the campus environment when choosing a school due to the length of the program. Take into consideration whether or not being close to family and friends is important to you and your mental health.
Additionally, consider the general climate and feel of the student population. Do you want to attend a school that is known for its outgoing ambiance, or do you want to go to a school where its students enjoy spending most of their time studying?
Being in a place that genuinely makes you happy will lead to less stress and will lead to more time that you can dedicate to your happiness and studies, so perhaps it would even be beneficial to visit the schools before deciding what life at that campus is like.
In light of the global pandemic, many schools are considering offering many more classes via Zoom. Additionally, it is likely that many classes for the 2021-2022 school year will be offered either solely online, or as a hybrid online/in-person format.
This is why it is important that technology is accessible to all students. Does a school offer grants for technological purchases? Does their library allow students to check out laptops for online courses?
If you are a non-traditional student, it might be of interest to investigate the student population at a school. Often, the transition to a new school can be daunting and isolating, which can make it important to find other students with similar backgrounds who can help each other navigate the culture shock.
It could be helpful to go on a school’s class profiles to see the percentage of students from each social and/or cultural background who have been admitted to the school.
But it is also important to note that diversity does not necessarily equate with equal treatment of all students. Make sure that the school that you attend provides resources for students of all identities (i.e. LGBT Centers, Chicanx Centers, Black Student Resource Centers, etc.) so that the transition can be as smooth as possible.
Although getting into a school is exciting, the ultimate goal of attending an undergraduate institution is to graduate from it. Oftentimes, students may need extra resources in order to succeed at a school–which is completely okay.
In fact, it would be worse should a school not provide its students with ample resources for success. In these cases, you will find schools with retention rates (or the percentage of students who finish their degrees) that are very low. So, find a school that is not only passionate about acquiring a student, but about seeing them succeed, both academically and in the job market.
Job Acquirement Rates
Lastly, students should be forward-thinking about their time at a university. Although it is not necessary to know what you want to study when beginning your time as an undergraduate, it should go without saying that you should want stability for yourself after you graduate.
This is why it is important to note the rates at which students acquire jobs after graduation (schools often post these statistics on their websites). Know that these statistics do not guarantee that you will actually attain a job post-graduation, but they do provide a general sense of how desirable graduates from certain schools are in the job market.
About The Author
Rafael Franco Flores (He/Him)
Rafael Franco was raised in the small farming town of Kerman, CA, where he resided until graduating from Kerman High School in 2016. Thereafter, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a double bachelor’s in English and History at the University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA), graduating with Departmental Honors in English, Cum Laude Latin honors, and Phi Beta Kappa membership. While at UCLA, Rafael developed a passion for critical theory and Romantic literature and hopes to continue studying these fields at the graduate level. In the past, Rafael interned for UCLA’s student newspaper, The Daily Bruin. He hopes to use his past experience in journalism as an editor for Central Valley Scholars in hopes of creating valuable resources for students in the Central Valley.