Recommendations for College Student Hopefuls in the Face of COVID-19

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Is it presently possible to take SAT or ACT tests? 

The College Board cancelled June SAT test dates. Students who have credit/no credit report cards or want to attend a “select” university should plan to take the SAT and/or ACT this fall, if possible. Though most colleges are test optional for the Class of 2021, and the University of California system has dropped the use of the assessment tool, strong exam scores could help with some competitive colleges. Check ACT’s website for updates on test dates and fall registration.

If I’m not testing until the fall should I continue with exam preparation? 

Those who’ve engaged in formal test prep during the spring should consider pausing and returning to it in late summer. Test-taking skills can be kept sharp by using free resources through Khan and ACT academies.

Should I submit scores to test optional colleges?

Colleges are sincere when they say that they don’t require test scores to review applications. More than 1,000 academies have successfully admitting qualified students for years—sometimes decades—without test scores. Their readers review information holistically, using grades, course selections, recommendations, activities, and essays.

How should juniors be thinking about SAT Subject Tests?

SAT Subject Tests should be a low priority. These exams have become increasingly obsolete over the last decade. No American college requires SAT Subject Tests; the short list of institutions that “recommend” them is shrinking fast. 

What about AP exams?

AP exams are being offered as 45-minute tests, taken at home. Submitting AP exam scores isn’t an admission requirement, though it’s a good idea to report AP scores of three or above on applications. 

How can I research colleges during shelter-in-place?

Participate in virtual college fairs, campus tours and information sessions, talk with current students and alums, read college guidebooks and websites, watch vlogs on YouTube or Campus Reel. 

Is demonstrating interest still important at colleges?

Demonstrating interest happens naturally with committed, conscientious, and organized college researchers. Sign up for college mailing lists, register for tours and information sessions, connect with admission counselors, and participate in interviews for all colleges of interest. Colleges that consider demonstration of interest as part of their application review generally note it on their admission website.

What activities should I engage in during shelter-in-place?

It’s challenging and disconcerting to suddenly have so much unscheduled time, and disappointing when activities and plans get canceled. Focus on maintaining mental and physical health. Nurture relationships with family, friends, and neighbors. To engage in a more structured way, think small, think community and think impact; ask “what needs to be done and then do it.” For example, tutor someone online, help a nonprofit virtually, by creating a Youtube video or film, journal, send letters to friends and family, document shelter-in-place through photographs or art, offer to pick-up groceries for vulnerable neighbors. 

Colleges know that the world has changed. They won’t expect applicants to do all the things they used to. Do things that bring joy. Show colleges you care about your community and are empathetic to the suffering of others. 

How will colleges know if I helped my community?

Next year the common application will include space for an applicant to address the impact of COVID-19 and, potentially, what the applicant did during the pandemic. 

Will colleges adjust their application deadlines next fall and winter?

Colleges may shift application deadlines to allow seniors more time to complete college visits, especially institutions that often admit a significant percentage of their first-year classes through binding early decisions. Highly selective colleges probably won’t make adjustments. 

I’ve heard that all seniors are deferring colleges. Does that mean there won’t be room for the Class of 2021 when they apply?

Most seniors are not deferring college. Colleges are concerned about filling their first-year classes this fall and will adjust their deferral policies to meet their institutional needs. Colleges are also thinking about the Class of 2021 and do not want to disadvantage rising high school seniors.  

How is Covid-19 impacting college admissions? 

Many colleges are struggling to fill their class for a variety of reasons. First, universities that relied on a large international student population have been left with lots of empty seats; applicants from China, South Korea and India will most likely not be allowed in the country by September. Even highly selective schools, like Cornell, Georgia Tech, and Northwestern have gone to their waitlists. Domestically, changed financial circumstances have forced many families to reject admission offers and focus on less expense educational options or forgo college altogether. Looking ahead, international applicants will continue to face barriers, financial and political.  The Trump Administration may impose new restrictions on international students who want to work in the United States after graduation. Faced with a dip in international applications and money, admission officers at public and private universities will focus on admitting more domestic, full-pay, students.