How the Israel-Hamas war is adding to the already difficult task of choosing a college

Josh Jury, a high school senior from Illinois, had initially considered George Washington University as one of his top choices for college. The university’s vibrant Hillel chapter, a popular club for Jewish students, caught his attention as he planned to study international relations.

However, his perspective changed a few weeks ago when the university faced backlash over student protests related to the Israel-Hamas war. Jury found the university’s response to the incident disheartening. As a result, he has decided to take a gap year before college, joining other students who are reevaluating their college plans due to the ongoing war.

In addition to the usual anxieties of the college admissions process, many Jewish and Muslim families are now considering new criteria for selecting colleges. The way college leaders handle the ongoing strife could greatly impact the choices of parents and students in the coming months. Jewish students, in particular, may be affected by the war-related controversies at selective schools, which have seen a decline in Jewish enrollment over the years.

Several Jewish parents and students have revealed that they have reconsidered their college lists due to the divisions and conflicts surrounding the Israel-Hamas war. For instance, Jennifer Schultz, a parent from Illinois, mentioned that her family is completely changing their college choices because of the universities’ tepid responses to anti-Semitic threats.

Campus chaos:The Israel-Hamas war has sparked free-speech battles on college campuses across the US.

The war’s ripple effects have also impacted Muslim families. Some Muslim students have expressed concerns about the impact of their ethnic identity and pro-Palestinian activism on college admissions. Islamophobic incidents during college visits have created a sense of insecurity for Muslim students, leading them to consider larger, urban campuses as potential safer options.

Revitil Chkoury drapes an Israeli flag around her during a unity gathering for Israel at Florida Gulf Coast University's Seidler Hall in Fort Myers, Fla., in October.

The ongoing controversies have sparked agitation among alumni, leading to calls for the resignation of university presidents and potential withholding of donations. Students have been arrested, and faculty members are divided. Jewish and Muslim college admissions experts have found themselves facing unprecedented challenges in guiding students through the admissions process during these turbulent times.

The process of college admissions has always been opaque, causing stress and uncertainty among families. This is particularly true for families from religious or ethnic backgrounds, who face additional considerations such as access to religious spaces and accommodations for traditions. The war-related divisions on campuses could further complicate the decision-making process for these families.

It remains to be seen how colleges will address the ongoing conflicts and provide a sense of safety and inclusion for Jewish and Muslim students. Parents and students are closely monitoring the administrative responses of universities as they make their college choices.

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