The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all facets of society as businesses and schools close down worldwide. Emergency policies in Ohio have affected education at all levels, including colleges and universities. In addition to changing the way that instruction is provided to current students, colleges have had to adapt the processes for recruiting and admitting future students. As high school seniors anxiously prepare for the uncertainty of their freshman year of college amid a global health crisis, five Ohio liberal arts colleges have been steadfast and creative in helping students make that transition.
Here are how five liberal arts colleges in Ohio are handing fall admissions protocols in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ohio Wesleyan University
An undergraduate education at Ohio Wesleyan has a strong focus on community and global impact. Nearly three-quarters of the students participate in internships, study abroad, or hands-on practical experiences related to their major. This commitment to the community has continued for Ohio Wesleyan during the Covid-19 pandemic as well. When students were dismissed for remote learning during the spring semester, the college opened its residence halls to local first responders and essential workers who required isolation from their families due to mandated or preventative quarantine. Ohio Wesleyan also continued to provide housing and support an eventual return to home for nearly 100 students who were unable to safely leave campus so abruptly.
Ohio Wesleyan University granted students a one month extension to pay the deposit for the fall semester. Additionally, they continue to accept late applications and will assess these in tandem with the deposits paid in order to complete their fall enrollment. The university is adhering to their typical deferral deadline, though they are considering late and atypical requests on an individual basis in light of the health and financial concerns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Merit-based aid at Ohio Wesleyan will be determined by looking at students holistically. The college will use transcripts and other application materials in making their decisions, and will consider each student on a case-by-case basis. The college also recently decided to move to an optional SAT or ACT submission as part of its application process.
Although final plans for the fall have still not been finalized, Ohio Wesleyan intends to bring students back to campus in the fall. The university is also considering flexible options that allow all classes to be taken both in person and remotely in order to accommodate students who are ill or are required to quarantine. Although campus events for early summer have been cancelled, Ohio Wesleyan will begin to offer outdoor tours to visitors around this time, with inside tours and other planned events potentially taking place later in the summer.
Denison University is a small liberal arts college that enrolls approximately 2300 undergraduate students from all over the world. As the students live on campus for all four years and many participate in Division 3 athletics, music programs, and Greek life on campus, the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected normal operations on the campus. Denison quickly refunded room and board for students who had to leave campus abruptly in the spring, and faculty, staff, and the community helped to house international students who were unable to return home.
Looking ahead to the 2020-2021 academic year, Denison University did not extend their deposit deadline for the fall semester. The school is also not accepting any additional applications for the next school year, as they have enrolled for all open spots. Additionally, the school’s deferral policy remains intact, requiring students to request a delay in enrollment by university’s set due date. Denison currently grants only year-long deferrals, though they may permit semester-based delays depending on the progression of the Covid-19 impact.
As some high schools have had to deliver notations of pass or fail instead of traditional numeric grading, Denison is considering how to award merit-based aid incoming freshman students. Students will not be penalized or excluded from scholarships for pass/fail grades, and GPA scores will continue to be determined by an in-house calculation at the college. As always, the school will factor in the rigor of the coursework and the student’s overall transcript in making merit-based determinations. Additionally, Denison continues to allow college readiness standardized testing to be an optional part of the application process.
While the college has not made final decisions about all of its policies and protocols for the fall, Denison has instituted standard hygiene and protective measures, such as mask requirements and sanitizing stations, to ensure the health and safety of employees, students, and visitors. Applicants and prospective students who wish to visit the campus will be allowed to do so under the guidelines and rules established by the university.
The 1700 undergraduate students enrolled at Kenyon College hail from more than 60 countries and many come from big cities with high population density. With all of these students living together in the residential halls on campus, the college has followed the lead of the governor and Ohio state health officials in making decisions for keeping students safe. The college closed subsequent to spring break, and refunded room and board to all students, including those who had received grant money from the school. Kenyon is also one of the biggest employers in its area, and is focused on taking care of faculty and staff as well as students while the campus is shut down.
For those who applied and were accepted to Kenyon College for the 2020-2021 school year, the deposit deadline has not been extended. However, the school is still open to communications from those who did not pay by the due date to confirm their decision. Kenyon is also still accepting applications for enrollment, and would like to hear from anyone still interested in attending for the next academic year. Although Kenyon is adhering to their typical deadline for requesting a deferral for the next academic year, they are also continuing to accept requests if a student’s needs change. Additionally, they are discussing the possibility of allowing students to delay enrollment until the spring semester, which has not previously been permitted by the college.
To determine merit-based scholarships, Kenyon will continue to take a holistic approach to assessing students. While GPA and pass/fail grades will be considered, a student’s entire application and transcript will be used to make decisions about performance-based aid. Although Kenyon typically requires students to complete either the SAT or ACT for admission, this mandate has been waived for the fall due to lack of testing availability in the spring.
Kenyon continues to explore all of the potential scenarios for instruction and visitation on the campus in the fall. Although specific plans have not yet been decided upon, the college is creating live virtual opportunities for applicants, prospective students, and families to interact with the campus. Visitors are not yet allowed physically on the campus, though Kenyon hopes to allow people to take tours again prior to the start of the next academic year.
In addition to a traditional liberal arts undergraduate education, Oberlin College also offers a music conservatory that about 120 members of its student body are enrolled in every year. As a result, the school hosts hundreds of music and theater performances each year, requiring students to work in close proximity to one another in front of large crowds of spectators. Along with reimagining their music programs for virtual learning, Oberlin has adapted how it offers education and support to the entire student body. The college has directly contacted all enrolled students at least biweekly while the campus is closed in order to maintain communication, and has continued to house international and domestic students who were unable to safely return home.
For the fall semester, Oberlin College has not extended its deadline to pay the deposit. The school is also not accepting late applications, but would be willing to hear from students who did not apply or submit a deposit on time. Although they are adhering to their usual deferral deadline, Oberlin is open to receiving additional requests after sharing their plan for the fall semester as this may impact some students’ comfort or ability to attend.
In considering qualifications for merit-based scholarships, Oberlin will examine transcripts, GPA, and the circumstances of each student’s learning. The college recognizes that the education provided to students through remote learning, as well as the home environment and support available to students, likely impacted final grades whether numerical or pass/fail. Oberlin continues to allow SAT and ACT score submission to be optional for admission, though international students will still be required to prove English proficiency.
Oberlin College continues to provide virtual offerings for current and prospective students, though they are working with health officials to allow for a return to campus in the fall semester. Current and future applicants are encouraged to interact with the college on their website until visitors are permitted to return to the physical campus.
The 1600 students at Wittenberg University have many opportunities for hands-on work experience and interaction with the local community. The popular education, nursing, and pre-professional programs at the college have many students participating in internships and off-campus learning as a typical part of their undergraduate experience. This close proximity with the public and specifically situations with a high risk of Covid-19 transmission leads to many challenges and considerations for the university in planning for the fall semester. Therefore, Wittenberg has assembled a health and safety committee composed of campus staff and local health officials to best inform the return to campus for the next academic year.
Wittenberg intends to release decisions about the fall academic plan by early summer, though they have already committed to reduced capacity housing to ensure that students living in residence halls do not share rooms. Students who have applied to Wittenberg University for the 2020-2021 academic year were granted a one month extension to pay their deposit. As a result of the extension, the school is also continuing to accept applications in order to fill all of the enrollment spots for the fall. The college continues to operate under their typical deferment guidelines, requiring a written request to delay enrollment. Wittenberg students have had the option to defer either a semester or a full year, and this continues to be the case for the next academic year.
In order to make decisions about merit-based aid, Wittenberg will look at all facets of a student’s paperwork. Letters of recommendation, the student’s transcripts, and other relevant components of the applications will be carefully read in order to determine aid based on student performance. Additionally, Wittenberg continues to leave the option of submitting SAT or ACT scores up to applicants and will not require them for admission for the fall.
Wittenberg is currently working on plans for slowly opening the campus back up to visitors and students. A final decision about the plans for the fall semester will be announced in early summer, and visitors are expected to be allowed to physically tour Wittenberg around the same time. Visitations will be limited to one person or family per time slot in order to maintain social distancing and health screenings will be conducted to maintain safety for everyone.