(Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini on Unsplash)

In a little more than 100 days, Who Gets In & Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, will be released. It’s now available for pre-order on Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, as well as from your local bookstore.

Pre-sales are really helpful in building momentum for books, so to thank you for ordering the book before the publication date, I have several goodies for you:

  • An exclusive series of emails with strategies for the college search.
  • Limited access to an online webcast on college admissions.
  • A free Who Gets In & Why bookplate, signed and numbered, for your book (a design that I’ll preview in a future newsletter).

Once you pre-order the book (hardcover or e-book) from any bookseller, just forward your receipt in any form to jeffselingopreorder@gmail.com. We’ll send instructions on how you’ll get the free stuff during the summer.

Thank you, and let’s get started…

The Class of 2021

The Class of 2020 has been getting most of the attention in recent weeks on Facebook and in the media, and for good reason — after all, their final days of high school and college were interrupted. Their graduation ceremonies were canceled.

But for high-school juniors, the Class of 2021, the beginning of their college search has been upended by COVID-19. Last week, I finished a preface to the book — new pages my publisher added so I could specifically address the impact of the pandemic on college admissions.

Why it matters: Because colleges make most admissions decisions when senior year is only half over, special relevance is placed on the junior year when assessing student performance. Now a part of junior year is one big asterisk for most students.

What’s happening: So many of the assets that are part of a student’s college application (test scores, grades, activities) or that accompany it (recommendations and essays) have been disrupted or delayed this spring.

  • One million juniors who planned to take the SAT for the first time this spring weren’t able to when the College Board canceled three testing dates for the SAT.
  • A Saturday in September was added as a new testing date for the SAT, in addition to August and October dates. The College Board is giving priority registration for all three testing dates to rising seniors who never had the chance to take the SAT.
  • On June 13, the rival ACT is scheduled to administer its test, maybe. Just last night, the ACT dropped a list of testing sites that have been scratched for that date — and it was 57 pages long.

The College Board and ACT are slowly walking their way to the reality that giving a standardized test to a slew of teenagers in a confined space for several hours is probably not going to happen this fall — at least with the same number of testing centers and students as usual.

  • The testing agencies are taking a page from the playbook of colleges with their announcements about fall plans: promise to be in-person until the last possible minute you can’t fulfill that pledge.
  • The College Board and ACT are trying to stem the tide of colleges going test-optional this spring, while colleges are using the playbook to shore up enrollment.
  • A huge test-optional domino fell last week when the University of California, with nearly 300,000 students and considerable sway in admissions nationally, agreed to phase out the ACT/SAT over the next few years.

Next up on the calendar: Early admissions in November.

  • The spring of junior year is critical to some juniors because they want to apply Early Decision in November.
  • Early deadlines might become another casualty of the virus if there is a delay to high schools opening in the fall or more disruptions to testing.
  • But don’t expect colleges and universities to simply eliminate early deadlines; they’ll just move the deadlines. During the Great Recession, selective colleges and universities doubled down on early decision to lock in their class in the fall. Expect the same this year.

Read more, Coronavirus pandemic gives us an opportunity to return sanity to college admissions (USA Today)

(Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash)

The New Ratio: Density

Colleges often talk about a student-faculty ratio. A new ratio they might be advertising this fall is their “density ratio”: how many students they can fit per square foot of built academic space in order to adequately maintain social distancing.

One number: 66 square feet per student.

That’s the figure a college official quoted me for his campus. Pre-COVID, the number was probably closer to 9 square feet. “Either you need a lot fewer students on campus or we better find new space, and quickly,” he said.

Much of what makes a residential campus valuable to learning — the density of students, serendipitous encounters — is also what contributes to the spread of the virus. “College leaders are already preparing for that future by considering ideas to prevent the virus’s spread in spaces like classrooms, dining halls, and dormitories,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports (subscription required).

  • Doorknobs may be removed in favor of hands-free options.
  • Entry and exit doors will be designated for classrooms.
  • Faculty members might find themselves teaching behind plexiglass — an option that is already being mocked by professors on Twitter.

Campuses were not designed to mitigate the spread of disease, according to a new paper from Steelcase Education, the global office and school furniture company. The paper lays out a number of short, medium, and long-term options available to campuses to retrofit, including:

  • Density (number of people), geometry (how the furniture is arranged), and division (screens, panels, or barriers).
  • Mobile carts with a place for people to sanitize their hands and for self-cleaning of tables might become a mainstay all around campus.

Classrooms and dorms have been much of the focus in recent weeks when it comes to retrofitting, but in reading through the Steelcase report you realize all the other places on campuses people gather, like the library.

On Tuesday, June 2 at 3 p.m. ET, I’ll be joined for a short conversation on the NEXT Office Hour by Aileen Strickland McGee, senior design researcher at Steelcase. No need to register in advance. We’ll be appearing on LinkedIn Live. Just tune into my LinkedIn page or follow me for a notification when we’re online.

(Photo by Cory Woodward on Unsplash)

Keeping Students on Track to Graduation

In March, Lorain County Community College in Ohio asked its students before classes re-started after spring break what they would need in the pivot to remote learning, campus leaders told me recently.

  • Three times a day, in real time, staff members at the college would pull data from the survey. Then the college deployed advisors immediately to respond to the students.
  • The survey helped Lorain discover some of the most anxious students quickly.

In some ways keeping students on track this spring was the easy part. “The students only had a few more weeks left in the semester,” said Lorain’s president, Marcia Ballinger. “The question for us is what the barriers are going to be for students going forward.”

  • The college’s enrollment is remaining steady, but students are taking fewer classes making their road to graduation longer.
  • There’s more burnout with school as students spend more time in front of a computer.
  • Getting students to load up on classes, in some cases be full-time students, has been one of the strategies the college has used in recent years to up its graduation rate.
  • Now, Lorain is looking to do things to drive completion that were already under consideration, such as short courses tied to the local job market.

Read more, Five Questions for Lorain County Community College

Watch more, as Marcia Ballinger joins me for a segment on the NEXT Office Hour on Wednesday, June 3 at Noon. We’ll be appearing on LinkedIn Live. Just tune into my LinkedIn page or follow me for a notification when we’re online.


What 2 Higher Ed Disrupters Think

John Katzman, founder and CEO of Noodle Partners, and Ben Nelson, founder and CEO of the Minerva Project, joined me and my co-host Michael Horn to talk about how COVID-19 might transform higher education, and what institutions should be doing in response.

What Learners Think

The Strada Education Network has been conducting surveys every week to track the impact of the pandemic on American lives, work, and educational plans. They now have responses from more than 8,000 adults.

What Gen Z Thinks

With jobs and internships canceled, Generation Z is entering a summer of uncertainty — and the damage could last forever.

Stay safe and stay strong — Jeff

To get in touch, find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Jeff has written about higher education for more than two decades and is a New York Times bestselling author of three books. His latest, Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, was published in September...