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Despite a drop in enrollment, high school seniors are still applying to colleges

The overall rate of high schoolers going straight to college has dropped by 22%

Colleges and high schools alike are attempting to rebuild how they get students to find, apply to, and attend college after the coronavirus pandemic changed the traditional admission and enrollment process. 

Because of the pandemic, colleges have been forced to cancel visit days. Representatives from colleges are not allowed to visit high schools, and SAT and ACT scores are optional. These changes have forced admission teams to look at past data differently. 

Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, vice president of enrollment management at Otterbein University, said that since the pandemic shut down the country in March of 2020, the admissions department had to adapt its process on how it admitted future students. 

Blackburn-Smith said that many factors such as whether a student had access to Advancement Placement courses or if they came from an under-served high school came into play when reviewing individual applications. 

“For a lot of kids, last spring was just pass or not pass. I mean, so GPA is a little less reliable, so then we looked at, you know, what other factors than COVID has the student had to deal with?” he said, “and that’s always been a part of our admission review, but we really heightened that.” 

The University was hit hard by the effects of the pandemic with a drop in enrollment for the spring semester by 9%. However, this is not an uncommon trend. Public two-year institutions had a drop in enrollment of 10.1% for this previous fall semester, while the overall rate of students going straight to college from high school has dropped by 22%. 

At Union Local High School in Belmont, Ohio, guidance counselor Rhonda Eberhart said that about the same amount of students are applying to colleges, the process is just slower because the high school was remote in the beginning and didn’t have college representatives visiting. 

Eberhart said that she had to change her methods of helping students apply to colleges. ”I have a Google Classroom I created,” she said, “I’ve been trying to push out more information that way. I’ve had a lot more teachers help me this year too since they do see the students as far as reminding them and helping them apply to colleges.” 

Blackburn-Smith also said that new programs and courses are a way to boost enrollment. Sports programs like wrestling and courses like the “unique” zoo and conservation science major have caused enrollment to grow. 

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