Is College Worth it in the COVID-19 Era? New ArtsBridge Survey Asks Parents, Students and Educators as Families Face College Decisions
Record Number of Schools Go Test-optional Increasing Competition, But Survey Says Students Still Want to Test and Plan to Submit Scores
Survey Highlights Unique College Admissions Challenges for Arts Students, Who Tell an Inspiring Story of Creativity and Optimism
24 Mar, 2021, 09:00 ET
BOSTON, March 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- As high school seniors eagerly await college decisions that will impact the next four years of their lives, families are weighing many new factors and options as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a new survey released today by ArtsBridge, a firm that offers college admissions consulting and specialized coaching programs for arts students, two-thirds of high school students and parents (62%) are concerned that the student won't have an ideal college experience. However, when looking back at the 2020-2021 academic year, despite a "non-traditional" college experience, most college freshmen (82%) say they would do it over again.
ArtsBridge surveyed students, parents and educators in February 2021 regarding their attitudes and experiences with the admissions process during COVID-19 (since March of 2020). The survey includes feedback from 739 respondents, representing all perspectives: 149 high school and college students, 157 parents of high school students, and 433 high school and college educators.
Families, Educators Question the Value of a COVID-19 College Experience
When it comes to dollars and cents, the value of a college education that includes remote learning depends on who you ask and, for educators, where they teach.
- 64% of high school juniors and seniors do not think college is worth the cost if they cannot attend classes in person, versus just 54% of parents with college-bound students.
- College freshmen, 96% of whom learned partially or entirely virtually this year, are pretty split down the middle:51% say yes, 49% say no.
- 72% of college professors think college with remote learning is worth the cost, while 67% of high school teachers, counselors and private instructors don't think it's worth the price tag.
The COVID-19 college experience also comes with added student life challenges, according to college freshmen who are finishing out their first collegiate year: 71% cited lack of social life/difficulty meeting people and 51% are struggling with the negative effects of the pandemic on their mental health.
The pandemic has certainly made it tough to "try before you buy." Since March 2020, fewer than 5% of high school students and their parents visited colleges in person only. While virtual visits aren't new, students, especially high school seniors, were forced to rely on them more than ever before.
- 75% of high school seniors and their parents report having visited colleges virtually since the pandemic started; 59% visited virtually only and 21% didn't visit at all (virtually or in person).
- 61% of high school juniors and their parents report not visiting at all (virtually or in person); perhaps, they're holding out for more "traditional" in-person visits since they have more time.
- "Not being able to visit college campuses" is one of the top three concerns about applying to college for 38% of high school students and parents.
Families are also feeling the financial toll of the pandemic, with 41% of high school students and parents concerned about their ability to afford the school the student wants to attend. Slightly more than half (53%) of high school parents say that the impact of COVID-19 on their finances has led to more open discussions about the ability to pay for college with their child.
Ultimately, parents (77%) and high school students (89%) agree that the student will make the final decision about where to enroll.
Demand for Standardized Testing is Strong, Despite Test-optional Buzz
Because of limited testing opportunities, hundreds of colleges (a nearly 70% increase) went test-optional this year, and more than half of colleges are on board for 2022 applicants, sparking a Shakespearean debate of "to test or not to test?" and "to submit or not to submit?"
Despite the fact that 89% of high school juniors and seniors applied to or plan to apply to test-optional schools, 75% of students still did take or plan to take the SAT or ACT. Of those students who test, 82% report they will submit their scores.
"Students are looking for a competitive edge at selective and highly selective colleges that went test-optional this year, and for some that may include submitting standardized test scores to one or more of the colleges on their list," said Shaun Ramsay, Vice President at ArtsBridge, former Assistant Director of the Boston University School of Music. "Trust the competition will be fiercer than ever at those colleges."
Increased competition is certainly top-of-mind for college applicants amidst other concerns of attending college in a COVID-19 era: 71% of high school students and parents worry that the student will not get accepted to their top-choice school or not get into any college at all.
The widespread adoption of temporary test optional admission policies in 2020 led directly and predictably to a surge in applications to America's most elite colleges. Ramsay adds, "Middle- and lower-tier colleges, however, are suffering from smaller applicant pools this year and some institutions are facing existential challenges as a result. The pandemic has disproportionately affected colleges and is widening the gap between the haves and have nots."
Arts Students Face Unique Admissions Challenges, Remain Optimistic
Arts students, who go through the typical college admissions process and a separate arts admissions process, have faced a unique set of challenges due to the pandemic.
Many high school performances were scheduled, but never happened, leaving 70% of these students and parents concerned about the student's inability to participate in theater, music performances or art shows, all critical to building a high school arts resume. Students also expressed concerns about virtual auditions and interviews not being as impactful, and virtual learning affecting their academic performance.
Despite these challenges, high school & college students, parents and educators tell a story of resilience during the pandemic. Arts students have turned to creative virtual options to keep practicing their craft, creating content for social platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok (87%), and participating in digital showcases (77%) and readings over video chat with friends or teachers (34%).
"In my 30-plus years of working in higher education, I never would have thought we'd see students auditioning for their dream schools from their kitchens," said Halley Shefler, CEO & Founder of ArtsBridge, former Dean of Enrollment for The Boston Conservatory and Director of Admissions at Boston University's School of Music. "I'm so inspired to see students persevere and embrace the challenges of virtual artistic training during the COVID-19 pandemic, while discovering more about who they are as artists and continuing to pursue their dreams. Broadway may be dark, but the future of the arts is bright."
According to high school students, parents and educators, most college-bound arts students (59%) are staying the course and not making any changes to their post-graduate plans. Those who are on the fence are considering taking a "gap year" or year off (30%), pursuing a BA or BS instead of a BFA or BM (17%) or attending community college for the first year (16%), as a result of the pandemic.
Parents and students are worried, but still hopeful, about the prospects of a future career in the arts: Only 46% of high school parents expressed a serious degree of worry, indicating they are "moderately or very worried," about their student's future job prospects, while just 34% of high school and college students share that same level of concern.
The majority (69%) of high school and college arts students have not seriously considered changing their career path or major because of COVID-19.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, ArtsBridge pivoted to meet the needs of its students, taking all of its prestigious arts training programs virtual. Due to increased demand from students taking a gap year, the company also introduced ArtsBridge GapYear, a 15-week virtual actor training program that provides college admissions and artistic guidance to high school graduates and college students. The GapYear program was a great success and will carry forward—applications for fall 2021 are open now.
ArtsBridge is a consulting firm founded in 2008 by college arts admissions expert Halley Shefler. The company works with students who aspire to study and have a career in the arts: theater, music, dance, film and visual arts. Their counseling and artistic training programs prepare students for the rigorous college application and audition processes. ArtsBridge students have successfully gained admission into the most selective and prestigious arts programs in the country. Students who participate in ArtsBridge training programs receive personalized guidance from renowned college faculty and key admissions decision-makers at leading arts institutions. For more information, visit www.artsbridge.com and follow ArtsBridge on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Media Contact: Elizabeth Tran, [email protected] , 973-885-0056
Share this article