September 09, 2020
MINNEAPOLIS—Despite an uncertain back-to-school season, high school seniors still need to make plans for their postsecondary education journey. To help students and families navigate the process in the current virtual environment, Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is offering free resources and helpful tips. ECMC is a nonprofit focused on helping students succeed.
"Preparing and planning for college is stressful under normal circumstances, but the coronavirus pandemic has further complicated the process," said Lori Auxier, director of student success at ECMC. "We at ECMC want to help students and families as they look to plot a course for their future educational plans in what has become an unpredictable environment."
ECMC offers the following tips to help students and families in the coming months and beyond:
- Attend online college prep sessions. Students should check with their high school or other local college planning organizations to see if they plan to host any virtual events that would provide how-tos about financial aid and finding a college that is the right fit for the student. ECMC's The College Place college access centers are actively hosting free online sessions to help families navigate this journey.
- Take advantage of virtual college tours. With colleges pivoting to provide incoming students with online offerings meant to mimic the in-person experience, students have the ability to "visit" prospective campuses from their computers. Many offer virtual tours and online college fairs as well as additional resources.
- Connect with your schools of choice. It's never too early to reach out to admissions representatives with questions or to learn more about their programs and majors. They may also be able to help with adjustments to admissions requirements due to the pandemic. In addition, these connections illustrate your interest in a particular school, which may prove beneficial during the application process.
- Become a social media fan. A great way to learn more about a prospective school is to follow them on social media. Schools often provides access to current students who can provide additional insight about campus life.
- Don't worry too much about standardized tests. More than 1,200 schools are now test optional for incoming freshman in 2021, meaning you do not need to take a standardized test for admission. If you have not taken college entrance exams, do not stress about trying to find a test location, particularly if it would put your health at risk. Campuses are aware of test limitations, and current scheduled tests may be postponed or not possible in areas considered COVID-19 hot spots. Visit fairtest.org for many schools policies and check with schools' admissions offices for more information.
- Apply for financial aid. Figuring out how to pay for college can be a daunting task. The first place to start is by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available October 1. The FAFSA is the gateway to federal financial aid as well as grants and scholarships, which will help you determine what you can afford.
- Consider how your field of study translates into the workforce. The pandemic has highlighted essential jobs that exist even when the economy is upended. Students and families need to contemplate the employability of their chosen field to ensure their college funds are well spent.
- Focus on the factors you can control. Now through January is an excellent time to write essays for college applications and apply for scholarships. With literally thousands of scholarships available in a variety of areas, students can maximize their ability to secure these funds by focusing a bit of time, effort and creativity to the process.
In addition to these tips, ECMC offers a free downloadable workbook that features a variety of worksheets and information to help students throughout the college planning process. Opportunities books are available in English and Spanish.
For more information, visit www.ecmc.org/students.