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2019 California Wildfires Cause Colleges to Delay Application Deadlines

Colleges offer affected students more time to complete their college applications.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

November 18, 2019

2019 California Wildfires Cause Colleges to Delay Application Deadlines
It was just over one year ago that wildfires completely ravaged California, forcing many colleges to extend their college application deadlines in the wake of destruction, power outages and evacuations. While it’s not uncommon for colleges to extend deadlines due to natural disasters, it is a little out of the norm for it to happen two consecutive years to the same affected area. Beginning in September, wildfires have once again wreaked havoc in the areas outlying Los Angeles and San Francisco. Although the destruction has not been comparable to last year, the prevention efforts have had a massive effect on the daily life of residents. Residents in California have mostly suffered under prevention efforts to keep fires from spreading. Throughout the month of October, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., cut off power supply to millions of people, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. While power outages are an effective measure against battling wildfires, they have left residents without access to electricity and the Internet. Given that nearly all college admissions is completed online, it has left many students unable to meet November 1 Early Action and Early Decision deadlines.

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In light of the wildfires and the prevention efforts, area colleges as well as others across the country have extended Early Action and Early Decision deadlines to those that have been affected. Early Action and Early Decision deadlines enable students to apply to college earlier as well as become notified of their admission earlier. For many students, applying Early Action or Early Decision is reserved for their number one choice. Therefore, these types of applications are very important to students. As a refresher, an Early Decision deadline is a binding agreement between a student and the college. If the student is accepted at that point, he or she must attend that particular college. An Early Action deadline, however, allows for more flexibility. Students are simply notified of their admission earlier than if they waited until the regular decision deadline to apply. It is not a binding agreement to submit an application under this deadline. Early Decision and Early Action deadlines require the same application materials. In addition to a form, colleges also require essays, test scores, letters of recommendation and transcripts. Letters of recommendation and transcripts are especially difficult to receive and submit on time in the event of a natural disaster like the California wildfires. With schools closing and power outages, high school counselors do not have the time or the resources to help students get these components for their college applications. At the end of October, the Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC) called for area colleges to extend Early Action and Early Decision deadlines. WACAC asked colleges to do the following: provide a clear statement that extends college admission deadlines for impacted students, counselors and teachers as well as an email to students, counselors and teachers from the Common Application and the Coalition Application with clear instructions on the login pages for help. Many colleges responded by extending deadlines between November 8 and 15. They include: • Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles – Students that live in fire or evacuation zones have until November 8 to submit their EA/ED applications. • Columbia University in NYC – Students impacted by the wildfires in California as well as the tornadoes in North Texas are able to submit their Early Decision deadline by November 10. An extension has also been given to students affected by the Chicago Teachers Strike. While students aren’t exempt from the regular deadline, teachers do have an extension on getting their students’ components to Columbia. • University of Virginia – Early Action deadline at UVA has been extended to November 15. • Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – Applicants living in areas that have been affected by natural disasters have been instructed to touch base with the Admission Dean serving their particular territory. • Pomona College in Claremont, California – Deadline has been extended to November 8 for students, teachers, parents and counselors. • San Francisco State University in San Francisco • University of Arizona in Tucson – The Honors College is offering a deadline extension to November 15 for students affected by both the California wildfires and the Chicago Teacher Strike. • Yale University -- Students affected by the California wildfires have a deadline extension of November 11. This deadline also extends to high school counselors who are submitting transcripts, letters of recommendation and any other necessary documentation. They are also generously waiving the application fee for any students that requires financial help at this time.

Colleges and Natural Disasters

Colleges have historically been very compassionate toward students who have faced natural disasters. It is not uncommon for colleges in geographic regions where disaster strikes to extend deadlines to students, and disasters that have been especially catastrophic have been known to push large, nationally ranked colleges and universities to extend deadlines as well. These types of disasters not only cause emotional trauma to students applying to colleges, they also impact basic factors. Power outages prevent students from getting access to the Internet, where nearly all of the college application process takes place these days. Schools close down or high school counselors are so impacted that they’re not able to access transcripts on time. Essay writing gets delayed because students have bigger priorities, like figuring out where to sleep that particular night or how to salvage a home that has been destroyed. If you have been impacted by a disaster, whether big or small, know that you can always reach out to an admissions officer at the colleges that are of interest to you. These officers aren’t just here to judge your application, they are in this particular role to assist and guide families. If for some reason, an applicant is struggling to make deadlines, they want to know. And they’ll work to do what they can to accommodate those circumstances. Don't be afraid to reach out, ask for help and request an extension in order to successfully complete your college application.

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