girl at home studying by herself but she's happy about it

How to Navigate Your College Decision During COVID-19

It might be hard to think about college when much of our country and others are on a stay-at-home order. Whether it’s because you aren’t able to visit all of the schools on your list or because your financial situation has changed, it’s completely understandable if you feel your path after high school has become a bit muddled.

How exactly might our nation’s lockdown affect your college decision? We’ll go through some of the obstacles you might have on your radar and try to find solutions.


aerial shot of Illinois' campus in the summer

I can’t visit campus now since visits are canceled.

Campus visits at many universities, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are suspended until further notice. This makes it pretty difficult to visit all of your colleges before the decision deadline, and we are truly sorry.

The good news is that many places are offering online options like webinars with admissions counselors and virtual tours to get you part of the way. Check out the admissions pages for the schools left on your list to see what they have to help.

We understand that none of this wins out over actually getting your feet on campus, but it will at least give you an idea of the school. And let’s not forget the benefits: You can tour a school from your very own home, in your sweatpants, alongside some snacks, and with the sage guidance of your hamster. That sounds pretty appealing, considering the circumstances.

If UIUC is on your list, we welcome you to visit us virtually. Some of our options include daily info sessions with counselors, as well as a photo tour of the school, a virtual reality experience of our campus, and, for those with a healthy funny bone, some comedic YouTube videos of our most iconic landmarks.


hamster running on a wheel

I have no idea how to find out whether a school is the right fit without visiting.

It’s really hard to tell if a school is right for you, especially when you haven’t been on the campus. Even with that four-legged genius of yours sprinting through their wheel, you might be at a complete loss when it comes to deciding on a school. And that’s okay.

A lot of people are at a loss on where to go even when they have visited campus—it’s a completely normal feeling. Part of the reason is that it’s just plain scary to make such a big financial and personal commitment. Who wouldn’t be a bit hesitant?

Even in these circumstances, though, the same criteria applies when you’re trying to narrow down your list: size, location, available programs, and cost. And these are all things you can find out online or by talking with an admissions counselor.

Please talk to us if you have any doubts! Admissions counselors here and elsewhere are meant to address your questions and help smooth things out for you. If you feel like you’re not getting the information you need, definitely reach out. That’s good advice in general, but especially at a time like this.


multicolored rubber ducks crammed together in a small wooden house

My house is too stressful at the moment to focus on anything else.

As people across the world move toward working and studying from home, the alone time that most of us depend on is harder and harder to find. Plus, not everyone’s home situation is helpful to their college search. Some are far from it.

If possible, try to carve out some personal space around your home, or try asking your family members for a little private time. Also, help keep shared spaces clean. When everything else in your life is hectic, a little organization goes a long way. You’ll be able to breathe a bit easier, and that in itself is a start.

Working out, even for five minutes, can help relieve some stress and provide you with added clarity, too. Go for a walk if you can. Even circling around the block once can help you put things back in place. If it’s too cold out, you can also try some in-home workouts—plenty can be found on YouTube for all levels.

Think of this time as an exercise in perseverance and adaptability—both are qualities that you already have (you’ve made it this far, right?), so you’re strengthening them even more.

Everyone’s trying to adjust to a new day-to-day. It will hopefully get easier as it goes along.

I’m not sure if I can afford college anymore.

A lot of people are finding that their financial situation has changed over the past month. If this is the case for you and you’re looking for guidance, don’t hesitate to contact the financial aid offices of the schools you’re considering. For example, UIUC students who have already completed the FAFSA may be able to provide updated financial information to our Office of Financial Aid. You might also consider checking out our guide to paying for college. You might learn about some options you didn’t know you had.

If you still find that four years at college isn’t financially possible right now, think about attending community college for your first two years. Some colleges (including UIUC) have programs that ensure admission into their school after attending a community college first.

We understand that college is a big investment, both of time and money. It can take some thinking to decide whether college is worth it for you.  

I just don’t know if I can make a decision right now.

College is a big commitment, and, like all big commitments, it’s one you should feel comfortable making. If you’re not there yet, take some time to really think about what other information you need to make your decision. Then, find a way to get it.

Another good way to deal with your uncertainty is to talk about it, whether that’s with us, your family, your teachers, or your friends. In fact, some of your friends are likely in the same boat you’re in and in need of talking things out, too.

Also, trust yourself! If you have a good (or bad) feeling about a certain school, there’s usually a reason; don’t discount it. Research and logic can get you quite far, but sometimes it comes down to instinct.

Finally, know that you have some options in your back pocket if things still aren’t working out. Everyone understands that these are unprecedented times, including UIUC. If you feel like you need more time than our May 1 decision deadline allows, let us know so we can work through things together.


friends holding hands while crossing the finish line at Illinois' Homecoming 5K

I’m just really scared about everything that’s going on right now.

It’s freaky that the world is in an economic and health crisis right now. But we’re all here together—not just the whole country, but the whole planet, too.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—you are not alone. None of us are. If there’s anything you should have faith in, have faith in humanity. Together, we’ve gotten through times worse than this, and we’ll get through more.

And academics-wise, things really could be worse. Ever read Harry Potter? Talk about a tumultuous education!

If you’re struggling with anxiety right now, there are mental health resources that can help. The CDC has advice on managing stress specifically related to COVID-19. You can also find some tips on coping with school closures. Our health center on campus provides some relaxation techniques to help reset yourself as well.


We understand how disruptive these developments can be when making your college decision. You may even feel as if this lockdown is shattering all of your chances of starting college off right.

Hang in there. UIUC has your back, even when we can’t see your face. Maybe that’s not quite the best way to put it, but what we mean is that we’re here for you, now and always, and so are the other schools you’re considering.

Give us a call with your questions or doubts at 217-333-0302 or email us at admissions@illinois.edu.

Illinois Admissions

Illinois Admissions

We're here for you as you prepare for college. Whether you're looking for guidance on the college search process or have questions about Illinois, we hope our blogs will help!

8 comments

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  • My son has been awarded quite a bit of scholarship money. He is going to also be a Type 3 AF ROTC scholarship recipient. None of that funding has yet been applied in the financial aid package that he has already received. Can you tell us what part of his current scholarship package would go away when the AF ROTC funding is applied?

  • Thank you very much for the access to information and guidance provided.
    I speak here as the father to my son who s dream is to do computer science from your esteemed university. He has been offered admission however in the math program. He still remains very committed to continue to take admission for the fall 2020 and get into any form of education (online) till schools open up. Is there an possibility to get admitted to the computer science program .?

    Would be great full if i can get some advice or direction towards this. Thank you

  • Addressing the fact that we don’t even know if schools will be face to face in the fall is essential right now. That’s a major concern for college bound families.

  • This is a parent question: The biggest obstacle for us as an out of state family is wondering if our student will actually be able to attend classes, live on campus in the fall. It’s hard to justify paying out of state tuition without knowing that.

  • Hello Vinod, and thanks for reaching out. If space becomes available in your son’s first-choice major and he has the opportunity to come off the wait list for that major, our office will let him know. We hope this helps. You can also email us or call us at 217-333-0302 with additional questions. Congratulations on your son’s admission to UIUC, and we hope to see him on campus soon!

  • Hi Laura,
    Thanks for reaching out. We recently sent out an email to all admitted students and parents about fall 2020 enrollment and COVID-19 concerns. Decisions about fall 2020 classes will happen in mid-June. You can view that email and other admissions updates related to COVID-19 here: https://admissions.illinois.edu/Apply/International/coronavirus#comms. If you have additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email us or call us at 217-333-0302. We’re here to help.

  • Hello and thanks for reaching out. We recently sent out an email to all admitted students and parents about fall 2020 enrollment and COVID-19 concerns. Decisions about fall 2020 classes will happen in mid-June. You can view that email and other admissions updates related to COVID-19 here: https://admissions.illinois.edu/Apply/International/coronavirus#comms. If you have additional questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email us or call us at 217-333-0302 so we can help.