I do believe that the coronavirus will affect the students enrolling for the fall of 2020 as well as for those applying this fall for 2021.
Many colleges have pushed back their decision deadlines from the universal May 1 Candidate Reply Date to June 1 (or later). I think this will mean the colleges aren't going to have as good of a handle on their fall numbers as they typically have and summer "melt" (number of students who cancel enrollment) might be bigger than expected. Students who typically visit colleges in the spring will have to get by using virtual visits in order to make their decision. There have been some recent surveys that report more students are planning to stay closer to home in the fall. I see more uncertainty in decision-making from my students than in previous years in terms of where they will enroll.
The impact of students staying closer to home and taking longer to make their decisions will also impact the use of waitlists by the colleges. I think some colleges will go deeper into their waitlist than they have in previous years, which means students will have more options that come later in the spring and may affect initial decisions.
Financial aid offices are also going to receive more requests to review financial aid packages in light of families' changing financial situations due to the pandemic. I think finances will be an even bigger factor in where students end up enrolling this fall because of the economic crisis unfolding in our nation and the world.
As for current juniors who will apply to enroll in the fall of 2021, we are already seeing colleges making changes to their admission requirements for fall 2021. There are almost daily postings of colleges going test-optional for those applying for fall 2021 and in some cases, beyond. I think colleges that consider things like demonstrated interest will also need to make changes to how they assess interest in the admission process.
There are many more changes that could be unfolding in the upcoming months as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. There are so many unknowns at this time that both colleges and students will need to remain as flexible as possible.