What can be done by two days?

Upperclassmen students suffer scheduling nightmare thanks limited number of excused college visits


Sophie Leung-Lieu

TEA rules limit students to only two excused absences for college visits, adding more stress to the college application process as students attempt to cram tours into a jam-packed 48 hours.

Kate Boyle, co-print managing editor & co-news editor

I board a flight Wednesday after school, my dad and I don’t make it to Boston until midnight, we’re exhausted but we have a busy day tomorrow. We’re up by seven the next morning, first college visit of the day is University of New Hampshire, next is University of Vermont. Three states in a day and by the end I’m exhausted. The next day we have a scheduled visit at Simmons University and then rush to University of Massachusetts Amherst. We don’t have time to do a scheduled visit there. This trip was carefully planned around the fact that I only had two excused college visits, and the same struggle is faced by many other seniors.

Three states in a day and by the end I’m exhausted.

Seniors need more than two excused absences for college visits considering College Board recommends students to apply to five to eight colleges and according to Encoura, a college planning service, 21% of Texas students go to college out of state. Additionally, McCallum being a fine arts academy, there are students applying to theatre and music schools, some of which require in-person auditions. After getting into colleges there are admitted student events that are encouraged. All combined, doing college visits within a two-day period is a challenge for many, and for others it’s nearly impossible and something needs to change.

In section 25.087 the Texas Education Agency Code says “A school district may excuse a student from attending school to visit an institution of higher education accredited by a generally recognized accrediting organization during the student’s junior and senior years of high school for the purpose of determining the student’s interest in attending the institution of higher education, provided that: the district may not excuse for this purpose more than two days during the student’s junior year and two days during the student’s senior year; and the district adopts: (A) a policy to determine when an absence will be excused for this purpose; and (B) a procedure to verify the student’s visit at the institution of higher education.” Other states across the country have similar rules, some allowing more absences, such as Massachusetts. which gives juniors three excused absences and seniors five, while other states give students equal or fewer than Texas.

Students have to decide what schools to visit and which ones to skip; if they’re applying out-of-state there’s simply not enough time.

Texas schools receive per-student funding based on average daily attendance. According to TEA, average attendance is calculated by taking the sum of attendance counts throughout the school year and dividing it by the days schools are required to be open. Schools are then funded based on a per-student attendance threshold of 90%. This rule intensifies school to keep students from missing school; for example, only providing students two excused absences for college visits.

For some students, including myself, students have to decide what schools to visit and which ones to skip because if they’re applying out-of-state there’s simply not enough time to see all their schools. This challenge is amplified for students applying to schools for theatre and music. Unified’s are theatre auditions that last 1-3 days in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. Chicago’s event is on a Monday through Wednesday which would require students to miss a minimum of three school days. Unified have 25 schools for which students can audition, but there are some schools that don’t participate in Unified which means more traveling. Music schools don’t have an equivalent to Unified and so traveling to many different schools is a must.

After the stresses of applications acceptances, hopefully, start rolling in, and with these acceptances come invitations to accepted student events, and although many aren’t mandatory, these events are a chance for students to connect and get a sense of the school environment. Getting the opportunity to travel to the schools I’m applying to is a privilege, and I realize that. Often times it requires money for a plane ticket, hotel reservations and a parent who can take off work to travel.

Doing college visits within a two-day period is a challenge for many, and for others it’s nearly impossible.

Additionally, school attendance is important, and not just because our school needs more funding. Catching up on a couple of days to a week of school is never fun, so I’m not necessarily proposing more excused college visits. During the pandemic colleges had to switch to more virtual options. Keeping these virtual options open would make college visits more accessible and would require less missed school. Colleges can work to make these visits as engaging as possible with videos of the campus and interviews with students. I think along with colleges continuing to offer virtual options and TEA offering more excused absences will be two solutions.