So much uncertainty…
The world of college admissions is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic quite drastically, as is almost every other part of our daily life. For seniors who have been looking forward to heading off to school in the fall, and juniors who are going to be starting applications this summer, there is massive uncertainty in almost every aspect of the process.
For seniors, May 1 has always been the day to decide and give notice to your school of choice that you plan to attend in the fall. This year, however, many schools have a delayed timeline, so that students and their families can assess the world health situation more completely before making that decision. Certainly, some areas of the country are likely to be more “open” than others, depending on the containment of the virus. Most colleges have not yet made a final decision as to whether or not they will even be open for in-person classes in the fall, so it is hard to decide where to go if you don’t know if your school of choice will be open.
So, if your school of choice does decide to go to some form of online learning, how will that impact your decision? Will you and your family want to pay tuition for you to stay home and learn? This is a big decision. You will need to carefully weigh what your options are in terms of finances, and if, by not accepting right now, you will lose your place when the school re-opens with in-person classes again. Make sure to pay close attention to all information coming your way, and do not hesitate to keep asking questions of your admissions officers.
If your school is firmly committed to opening in the fall to in-person classes, what is its plan if/when the virus returns as is predicted by most health officials? Will the idea of starting school and then having to return home for online classes impact your decision? How will you feel about attending college without many of the traditional experiences? Is going to school where there is a big football program or being part of Greek life a huge part of your intended college experience? Were you attending as part of an athletic scholarship for a sport that may be in jeopardy of not being played? How will this impact your decision?
Another thing for seniors: you have been away from your high school campus for a while now, but you need to make sure that your final grades are forwarded to your college of choice. Stay in touch with your counselors to see this process through. If you have changed your mind since the last time you spoke with him/her, make sure to communicate that information.
For juniors, there are completely different things to take into account. One of the biggest is that both the SAT and ACT have cancelled many sittings of their standardized tests, and have deferred testing to later in the summer or fall. This definitely changes the strategy that I like to use, which is to study and take tests early for the best opportunity at early admission answers, and to avoid having to take tests in the first semester of senior year when there is still so much school work left. Make sure to pay close attention to the testing policies of the schools where you plan to apply, as many are starting to say that they are not going to require standardized tests for this coming application season. (“Not require” does not mean they won’t still accept them, so if you have strong scores to submit, you can probably still do so; but again, keep up with the policies of the individual schools).
Next, you will still need to have recommendations from teachers, so hopefully you will stay in contact with the teachers you have a good relationship with and ask for those recommendations now. You still need to get strong grades (if your school is sticking with a traditional grading schedule). And if you normally participate in a spring activity, a good essay topic would be how you ended up spending your time instead of your activity while sheltering in place. Make sure to follow up on AP testing procedures if you were planning to take them.
Above all, do not despair! You are not alone in dealing with these changes and challenges to the college admissions landscape. Colleges are going to be looking forward to hearing from you when you apply. Make the most of this time and try to stay positive. And as always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.
Maryanne Hogan is an Independent College Admissions Consultant working with students on Maui. Visit her website, thecollegeauntie.com, for more information or to make an appointment.