Campus Visit Darwinism: Top Boarding Schools and Colleges are First to Close Doors to Visitors

Evolution often holds true for education: Health concerns surrounding coronavirus have led the most selective colleges and boarding schools to cancel or limit campus visits, while slightly less selective schools, as well as the vast number of enrollment-challenged institutions, are keeping their doors open – at least for now. At the time when high school juniors traditionally visit colleges, the eight Ivy League schools (plus MIT and Stanford) have canceled campus tours. Likewise, almost all the schools in the rough boarding school equivalent of the Ivy League, called the Ten Schools Admissions Organization (Andover, Choate, Deerfield, Exeter, etc.) has canceled accepted student revisit days, traditionally offered in early April.

As of March 11, the next tier of selective institutions is still receiving visitors (except, in many cases, those from affected areas like China, Italy and Iran), so juniors can still take a tour at Bowdoin or Tufts in New England, Pitzer out West – or Washington University in St. Louis in between. Likewise, the equivalents in the boarding school world are still planning to host accepted students in a few weeks.

We predict the dominos will continue to fall in a survival-of-the-fittest sequence. Those with big endowments and overflowing applications can afford to suspend visits. What’s unknown is whether the enrollment-challenged institutions, including many boarding schools who depend on full-pay international students, especially from China, as well as the small liberal arts colleges that are already raising the financial red flag, can sustain the economic impact of the potentially inevitable decision to shut their doors due to coronavirus concerns.

Currently we are advising our students from across the country and around the world to be vigilant, follow CDC recommendations, check with individual institutions about the logistics and safety of visits, and lean on our established virtual counseling tools.

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