Graduating high school seniors are aware that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their first semester in college could be spent at home, instead of the traditional campus setting.

You can learn valuable lessons online before applying for college. (iStock)

You can learn valuable lessons online before applying for college. (iStock)

This reinvention of the college experience might even cause some of them to decide not to attend college at all this fall. Despite a sense of loss, here are five good reasons to stick with your plan to go to college, even if you won’t be leaving home.

Make progress toward earning your degree

The essential purpose of college is to earn a college degree. Whatever may happen with the COVID-19 virus, you will not make matters better for yourself, or anyone else, by delaying achievement of that goal. Multiple studies consistently conclude that people who earn a four-year college degree earn significantly more money and have a higher quality of life than those who do not.

Be a part of the change

This spring, colleges quickly managed to provide students with online classes in response to the quarantine orders that were issued in most states. This fall, colleges will be improving virtual learning and students can be pioneers in that process. Attending college presents an opportunity to emerge from this phase of the virus uniquely prepared for future graduate, professional and lifelong learning.

This pandemic is not the first time a crisis has dramatically altered college life in America. The integration of the sexes in America’s universities dates to the outbreak of the Civil War. That advancement was brought about during a troubled time, and now it is this generation’s moment to share in the evolution of higher education in America.

Save time and money

Without a doubt, students attending college virtually will save time that would have been spent commuting to class, even if that would have been on foot or bicycle.  They will also save time due to reduced distractions, however fun and enriching many of those would have been.

Although it is unclear whether colleges will discount tuition in response to the shift to online instruction, students who attend college virtually will save money on room and board, because college residences and housing in college towns are notoriously expensive — especially when compared to your family’s home.

Gain valuable work experience

If virtual college frees up some of your time, you can seek remote, part-time employment.  The workplace has changed rapidly due to the pandemic. Massive companies like Google and Salesforce, as well as many small businesses, have been forced to embrace remote work.

Several are even questioning the need for physical locations and expensive office space altogether. Last month, Twitter announced that employees working from home could continue to do so forever.

This realignment of business values creates opportunities for students to work while in college and beyond.  As the digital transformation of business inevitably continues throughout this crisis, the demand for skilled remote workers will likewise continue. You are well-advised to gain those skills that will be valued in the digital workplace of the future through your degree program and work experience while in college.

Growing up

College has traditionally been a time of unique, personal growth. Nothing about the present circumstance alters that; only how it will happen has changed. 
In the past, your first adult experience living away from family and meeting new people spurred your maturity. Now, helping your family, adjusting to change, and becoming resilient in the face of disappointment will define your development.

Importantly, while there has been much handwringing that the prospect of virtual college will cause students to postpone attending college this fall, according to the Wall Street Journal, colleges report no significant uptick in requests for deferrals.

While this could change, it seems we have underestimated the courage, adaptability, and optimism of this year’s crop of high school graduates. Perhaps it is time we stop predicting that college freshman will sit out the upcoming academic year and focus on encouraging them to seize their moment in history and make their big move to higher education — now!

Barbara Connolly, JD, is the founder and director of Birmingham-based College Choice Counseling, and a Certified Educational Planner. She can be reached at