How COVID Has Changed the Way Students Choose Their Post-Secondary Institution

September 16, 2020

Most colleges and universities have now returned to school for the fall. Many have come in with a plan for this academic year, but these measures are only temporary responses to the current global pandemic. However, as traditional university practices drastically change this fall, the factors potential incoming students consider when choosing their university have changed - potentially for the long term.

The global pandemic has changed the way students and employers alike envision the future, with safety and financial factors at the forefront. Another key consideration has emerged as individuals and organizations become more aware of their diversity and inclusions practices and put real effort towards improving them. Here are 5 key factors that students are considering more heavily when choosing their academic institution going forward.  


The Dealbreaker - Financial Incentives

Financial incentives like scholarships and bursaries have always been key deciding factors for students, but the economic impact has made financial barriers worse even harder to break through. As academic institutions have fewer resources due to reduced student enrollment, they’re less likely to offer many scholarships in the future. Unemployment rates have been a record high around the world, and as a result, students are more financially conscious than they’ve ever been. They’re looking for universities that can provide them a stable solution for being able to attend college, whether that’s lower tuition fees, scholarships, opportunities for work-learn, or bursaries. Nonetheless, finances are make-or-break for students as taking on greater risk is less attractive in a global pandemic.


The Essentials - Safety Measures

Many schools have decided to shift online entirely to avoid any risk of COVID exposure. However, many have decided to proceed with safety measures in place, such as smaller classes, mask requirements, and social distancing. With either option, students are worried about the implications this may have on their academics or their health. The responses of universities vary across the board and students also have varying expectations for adequate safety measures. Regardless, safety is a new consideration that will likely remain as such for years to come as we recover. Whatever the decision is for the university, they need to assert that safety is a priority and provide clear communication about the steps students will need to take.  

The Exigent - Diversity and Inclusion

In the past few months, many institutions and companies posted statements on their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and their commitment to diversity and inclusion, but the outcomes of these commitments are still being observed. Students are now far more conscious of the institution’s practices, looking at them in reference to the impacts on BIPOC communities. Future students want systemic change that makes education more accessible and equitable in its benefits. Discriminationatory practices are not going to be tolerated and students will appreciate concrete steps towards an inclusive educational environment.


The Magnet - Career-Building Initiatives  

The world of work is changing in all aspects with the emergence of virtual work and new industries. These unprecedented changes have left students reconsidering the value of their post-secondary education in preparing them for their preferred career. It has highlighted the fact that university or college isn’t necessarily going to guarantee a job post-graduation. Now is the time for academic institutions to invest in career-building initiatives like working with companies, connecting students with their alumni network, and building student-body connections. Students are looking to see practical steps the institution is taking rather than relying on the name and prestige to provide answers for a job after graduation. 


Members of academia have already been working hard to adjust for the fall semester, but these steps don’t just end when this semester does. In the midst of all the changes, universities and colleges are encouraged to be proactive and take this opportunity to reimagine a better education system for future students. If you’re an educator and you’re interested in ways to provide career-building opportunities for your students, learn more about Riipen which connects students with companies for project-based learning. If you’re looking to get started on the process, contact community@riipen.com.