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Amid campus protests, some teens and parents reconsider enrollment decisions

·3 mins

Earlier this year, an 18-year-old high school senior from New York City had planned to enroll at Columbia University’s sister school Barnard College in Manhattan as an early decision student. But after her parents saw tensions over the Israel-Gaza conflict surface across some US campuses, including at Barnard and Columbia, they went back to her list. The student, who is Jewish, ultimately chose Brandeis University in Massachusetts, one of only two schools on a list of colleges that received an A grade for its response to antisemitic incidents on campus and its support for Jewish students. The student’s mother said reconsidering where her daughter attends in the fall was a family decision. Other families also have been grappling with where to send their high school students in the fall as campus protests continue to play out at schools around the country, even as the final deadline fast approaches. Since April 18, more than 1,500 people have been arrested on more than 30 college and university campuses across at least 23 states, according to a review. Some students this time of year participate in what’s called a ‘revisit day,’ where they visit or drive through campuses one last time to get a better sense of the lifestyle and environment before accepting. But increased safety measures, such as universities closing their gates to outsiders or conducting heavy screenings to enter admission offices, have made this practice more difficult this year. While universities have been faced with controversy, from antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents on campus to growing political unrest, the protests have been even more ‘jarring’ for students and parents, according to admissions experts. In a group where parents discuss college admission issues, one parent expressed concern over her son’s commitment to Columbia on a scholarship. Over 500 parents responded to the post, many of whom said they would not send their children to school there due to recent events. Columbia University declined to comment on how the protests are impacting its fall enrollment. During a Congressional hearing in April, the university president defended how the university responded to events on campus and has prioritized the safety of its students. The school remains at the epicenter of the demonstrations, where recently it banned from campus a student protest leader who in January made a controversial statement. Columbia’s Senate passed a resolution late Friday to investigate the university leadership’s handling of the protests. Brian Taylor, a managing partner at a private admissions coach company, said the company has seen little change in where students are enrolling, except for one clear pivot. Some students who work with admission coaches called the day students were arrested at Columbia’s protests to see if they had a better chance of getting off of their waitlist and admitted to the school. One student who is working with admissions experts said they decided to commit to Columbia despite the protests. The practice of reconsidering which universities to attend may be even higher for high school juniors who have yet to formally apply. One junior in high school who is working with admissions experts said he was originally focused on Ivy League schools but is applying elsewhere now due to how some of the schools have handled antisemitism on their campuses. The guidance counselor said some families in her community made decisions based on how school administrations handled events following October. At the same time, Harvard University applications dropped 5% this year, suggesting demand to attend Harvard has not weakened dramatically.