What Rising High School Seniors Think

Survey details opinions of a group of students who were unable to visit colleges for much of the year.

July 6, 2020

Eighty-one percent of rising high school seniors believe they will have a full on-campus experience by the fall of 2021, according to a survey of 2,670 by the Art & Science Group. But the survey found that Asian Americans, low-income students and those who thought they would apply for financial aid were less confident than the respondents as a whole.

That pattern repeats itself in the survey with gaps based on race/ethnicity and income.

Eighty-one percent of the students said they would be more likely to apply to a college that reduced its application fee. But 88 percent of low-income students said they would be more likely to apply to a college that eliminated the fee.

And 58 percent of rising seniors said they had not visited a campus during their senior year. But the numbers were higher for Black, Hispanic, low-income and first-generation students.

While the students hope to visit campuses in person in the coming academic year, they said they would rely on these alternatives for now:

  • College websites: 75 percent
  • Virtual tours: 72 percent
  • Personal email from colleges: 51 percent
  • Virtual Q&A sessions: 46 percent
  • Print material from colleges: 40 percent
  • Virtual college fairs: 37 percent
  • One-on-one virtual meetings: 37 percent
  • Social media: 37 percent
  • Digital advertising: 9 percent

The Art & Science Group's respondents, provided by the College Board, were 55 percent female and 56 percent white.

One-third of the students said they were not hurt in terms of their qualifications to attend college. Of the others, there was a wide range of impacts. Thirty percent said they were unable to do extracurricular activities, and 30 percent said they feared their lack of campus visits would hurt their odds of admissions. Fifteen percent said their grades had suffered, and 12 percent were unable to participate in sports.

And then there are standardized tests. Two-thirds of students said they had yet to take the SAT, and three-fourths had yet to take the ACT. Underrepresented minority students, low-income students and first-generation students were less likely to have taken the SAT or the ACT.

Three-fifths of the students said they would be more likely to apply to colleges with test-optional policies.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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