Written by – Nandini Narula Bajpai, Class XII student from Isha Home School, Coimbatore
UC CAAS student – USA – Psychology & Music
“COLLEGE! These will be the best years of my life!”
This is definitely the thought I had before March 2020 when the existence of COVID hampered the basic functioning of the world – borders, safety, healthcare, flights taking off, masks, death. Some of us decided to take this situation with an optimistic approach where we gathered all our energy and picked up jobs, online courses, started our own companies and websites, worked on building our art/ music portfolios, took gap years, and much more; but there are still students who had already accepted their college offers and had their hands tied when it came to their future prospects.
I am a senior graduating from school in 2021. This article is a reflective yet factual piece – Keeping the current pandemic in sight, I’m citing the 5 factors that became important for me when selecting my college or outlining my choices in 2021 (this may help those aiming to join college in 2022):
1. Visa and immigration: My mother said ‘until your flight to the US takes off and you don’t call me from your settled dorm room, I will not consider that you’re in college’. I was supposed to attend my freshman year of college at Dublin, Ireland, but had to withdraw my application from the study abroad opportunity after filling in and signing more than 30 documents for the same. I could have been left without a college if I was banned from Dublin at the last minute and would have had to resort to my last options. Even after reexamining my choices multiple times, I still don’t know whether or not I will be going to the US in the fall for sure.
2. College specific country laws and safety precautions: From getting Red-listed in countries like the UK and not being allowed to go, to thanking all my stars that the Biden administration relaxed laws related to entry of students into the country, to Canada seeming to be comparatively efficient in containing the spread of covid and then closing borders just last month, I decided on my college. So in my opinion, even when you look at the history of how a country has handled the pandemic situation, considering all your options is absolutely essential.
3. Possibility of online/ offline/ hybrid: For colleges abroad, even if you’re studying online, the fees stay the same. Taking an education loan or dedicating all your family’s savings for studying according to a different time zone without availing the same facilities, may not make sense to most families.
4. Save your resources, as everything is uncertain: The pandemic has impacted the financial situation of most families in India, and has taught us the real meaning of scarcity and the privilege of abundance. In such a time, conserving resources, including money and energy, becomes essential. The virus affects different people differently, so spending quality time with the family you have.
5. Worst case scenario: While I got mad at my parents for paying the enrollment deposit for a college in India despite me getting into 10+ colleges in the US, Canada, and the UK, I know that they were only considering the ‘what if’ factor. Having a backup college, though not seemingly ideal, is perhaps required. So get ready for the worst case scenario, whatever that might be for you.
Some questions to ponder upon before finalizing a college:
How do you decide if your university or college is COVID responsive?
- Has your college updated you about their country’s policies regarding international students?
- On the cancellation of Board Exams in India, has your college emailed you about receiving your transcripts? Some colleges have turned conditional offers into unconditional ones, has yours?
- Have entry requirements (TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, ACT, other entrance exams) been relaxed?
- Does your college offer free vaccination for students? Is it mandatory?
- Are the quarantine facilities at university at your own expense, or is the college taking the responsibility?
- What kind of safety measures is being taken in order to ensure your safety and security while on campus?
Whether you’re half a world away from where you intended to be right now, or you have your fingers crossed when it comes to you physically going to the college of your choice in the next few months, do make sure that you keep your college’s COVID responsiveness in mind.