As we move into June, we’re facing a “drop-down menu” of how to move forward with life. There are many uncertainties. But it’s certain that education will continue and that rising high school seniors will be applying to college. How to plan for this uncertain future is on everyone’s mind.
I’ve spent the past few months participating in information sessions, webinars, and Zoom meetings with dozens of admissions officers and hundreds of fellow educational consultants. I’ve received clear, cogent explanations of issues and possible resolutions. Many schools are planning everything from a virtual first semester to a complete re-opening with adjustments for social distancing.
Michael E. Moore Jr., Union College’s Associate Dean of Admissions and Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment, refers to this multiple-perspective approach as PMT: Planning for Multiple Tomorrows. The administrations of colleges and universities worldwide have been making efforts to do just that. Here are some recent updates:
Admissions and Applications News:
Everyone in the admissions world understands that applicants are “all in the same boat,” and they won’t be penalized because their academic, extra-curricular, and personal lives have been disrupted by COVID-19.
Many admissions officers have indicated an availability—even an eagerness—to answer emails and phone calls from applicants who have questions or concerns. This is an opportunity to reach out to knowledgeable professionals who are currently working from home. They’ve all expressed a willingness to respond and to share information as they work feverishly to move forward.
In order to give applicants the opportunity to explain how COVID-19 has affected them, the Common Application has added an optional essay of up to 250 words. Applicants may discuss personal, academic, athletic, extra-curricular, work-related, and/or financial issues. This essay won’t replace the personal statement or the current Additional Information 650-word option for students to discuss “circumstances and qualifications not reflected elsewhere in the application.”
Additionally, according to the Common App, high school guidance counselors will be invited to explain the effects of COVID-19 on their individual schools, including changes in grading scales and policies, graduation requirements, instructional methods, schedules and course offerings, testing requirements, the academic calendar, and other extenuating circumstances.
In terms of deadlines, most schools won’t be changing their dates for early decision, early action, or priority admission. Some may add an ED2 option for January.
Colleges and universities that require individual and group auditions are in the process of working out procedures that will allow for social distancing as well as for students who will not be able to travel to do these auditions in person.
Colleges Continue to Revise SAT and ACT Requirements:
Colleges and universities are continuing to make decisions about standardized tests. Harvard, Cornell, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania have reconsidered the role of the SATs and ACTs in admissions. Others, including Dartmouth, Yale, Brown, and Stanford, will still require them. Amherst College and Williams College in Massachusetts have gone test-optional for this year’s applicants.
Just recently, the entire University of California system changed its testing requirements for upcoming years but some future changes may be specifically for California students. UC will be test-optional for fall 2021 and 2022. The system will be test-blind for fall 2023 and 2024 for California public and independent high school applicants in terms of admissions, but test scores may still be used for course placement, certain scholarships and eligibility for the statewide admissions guarantee.The SAT Essay/ACT Writing Tests will no longer be required for undergraduate admissions, and the scores won’t be used at all for fall 2021 admissions. More future changes will be under consideration as well.
Be very clear about the consequences of the test-optional policies offered by colleges and universities. There are still advantages to taking the SAT or ACT if you can, especially because even some “test-optional” schools will still be using the scores to evaluate students for merit awards and honors programs. The websites of individual schools will provide up-to-date information about their policies and processes. Fairtest.org provides continuous updates of changes in testing policies.
For students who plan to take the SAT or ACT, there are some planned testing dates. Although the ACT is at this time still offering the test on June 13, ACT.org indicates that “during the week of May 26, we will notify students and announce all test center closings and cancellations for the June 13 test date. However, as ACT and other agencies navigate ongoing developments, testing at any test center is subject to change at any time between now and June 13, 2020.”
Future 2020 ACT tests are currently scheduled for September 12, October 24 and December 12.
Future 2020 SAT tests are currently scheduled for August 29, September 26, October 3, November 7 and December 5.
College Visits: Virtual or Actual?
Although many schools are hoping to re-open their campuses in the fall for actual visits, most colleges are creating a wide range of virtual opportunities for potential applicants to explore their campus, academics and student life. These opportunities have some interesting advantages. Many families find the cost of travel to visit schools to be daunting, and they are happy to view their college options virtually. This may be more relaxing for students who will feel more comfortable asking questions that they wouldn’t necessarily ask at an actual tour or info session in the company of their parents and peers. Also, these opportunities are less stressful in terms of minding social distancing, which may continue to be the wave of the future.
Some schools that offer Zoom meetings and webinars will track those who attend for the purpose of demonstrated interest, but many schools won’t be using interest as a factor for admissions except through school-specific essays. However, if a student is deferred or wait-listed, interest may play a valuable role.
What can students do once their high school obligations are behind them?
Instead of waiting until the fall to make your lists of schools to which you hope to apply, it would be better to do that over the next month or two. It’s important to keep track of what each school requires or requests.
Now is also the right time to fill out your Common Application or Coalition Application as well as to complete your personal statement, and the optional additional information and COVID-19 essays. By August 1, you’ll be able to start working on the supplemental questions and/or essays from individual colleges and universities.
Ask several teachers to write recommendations for you. Use your high school’s brag sheet or a list of items that the teachers would find useful to help them write their own letters. Also, you may be able to ask “Other Recommenders” such as coaches, club advisers, employers and others who know you well to write supplemental references. They’ll be able to send those references via Common App.
Learn about financial aid options. Be sure to become familiar with the College Cost's net-price calculator which will help to determine college affordability and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. Information about the approaches of individual schools to financial need will be available in a future newsletter.
And a final word for students who hope to be heading to their new campus in the fall:
Be ready for all contingencies, including purchasing the usual supplies that you would need to bring with you. College Essay Whiz offers a fabulous Ultimate Packing List for your needs! Keep all receipts, but move forward!
You’ve dealt with the disappointment of an unfinished sports season, a cancelled school play or concert, a final project, or the opportunity to rock final exams. Long-awaited summer plans—trips, camps, programs at universities all over the world—are no longer feasible due to COVID-19. But even as universities scramble to consider a range of possible scenarios for the upcoming summer and fall semesters, admissions officers have a message for high school students who plan to apply to colleges: This is the time to be inventive by delving into new and fulfilling projects.
Here are some ideas for you to consider.
1. Research and sign up for college online programs; check with any of the colleges in which you are interested and see what they are offering to high school students.
2. Start your college application process: Research colleges virtually and start filling out the applications; do drafts of your personal statement; create your resume and an activities list.
3. Learn a new language or become more fluent in a language you’ve studied.
4. Start a journal or a blog about your thoughts.
5. Learn to play a new musical instrument, to understand music theory or composition. There are hundreds of resources to get free lessons from Fender, YouTube, individual artists, and the Berklee School of Music.
6. If you cook or bake, ask your friends and family to share recipes and create a survival cookbook. Take a Masterclass on how to make and publish a cookbook.
7. Research your heritage: Create a family tree, interview your relatives and learn more about your family history. Find photos and put together a digital album.
8. Learn about an area of art, music, theatre or literature. Try your hand at painting, drawing, composing, music theory or writing.
9. Read and watch videos of Shakespearean plays.
10. Study a particular period of history and write a historical novel or play.
11. Read about mythology; compare the mythologies of different civilizations.
12. Pick a topic in your favorite subject and do some research; follow experts in the field.
13. Interview professionals in a field that interests you; arrange to intern when you are able to do so later on.
14. Create an online survey about a topic that interests you; tabulate and analyze the results.
15. Pick an author and read a variety of his or her books, stories, articles or poems/keep a journal of your thoughts and/or start a virtual book club.
16. Learn grammar, punctuation, and spelling; enrich your vocabulary.
17. “Visit” several countries, sights, museums, national parks, etc., and write blogs about them.
18. Learn about interesting areas of science such as meteorology, ornithology, astronomy, epidemiology, etc.
19. Contact your own high school for ways to do online tutoring.
20. Research and pursue opportunities to volunteer online.
21. Connect with people who are alone, old or ill; organize your friends to do the same and share your experiences.
22. Learn about cars for basic care and maintenance.
23. Learn and share information about the life skills you will need when you go to college: time and money management, doing laundry, basic cooking, sewing, basic first aid, arranging your own transportation, etc.
24. Learn to sew, knit or crochet; open an Etsy store to sell your work
5. Learn Tik Tok dances or any other kinds of dancing.
Think about some of these ideas to pursue; learn something new and different...something that will show that you’ve got the flexibility, the spirit, and the drive to deal gracefully with change.
Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns about any aspects of the college application process in our “new normal” world. My role as an independent educational consultant is to provide you with as much information and guidance as possible.
In a continuing effort to provide updates that will help us get through this “new normal,” here is some more information about changes, strategies and suggestions.
AP exams to be restructured: In order to do as much social distancing as possible and to administer the Advanced Placement test fairly, the College Board has announced that 45-minute free-response online exams will replace the standard format. According to AP Central, the exam will cover only topics and skills covered by most teachers and students by early March.
Since some students will want to take the test soon while the coursework is still fresh in their minds and others will want more study time, there will be two different testing dates for each AP course. According to AP Central, colleges “support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they have worked this year to earn. For decades, colleges have accepted a shortened AP Exam for college credit when groups of students have experienced emergencies.”
The full exam schedule and more details will be available by April 3. AP Central is planning to provide free resources to students through the exam periods. If students want to cancel their registration for any exam, they can do so at no charge.
NACAC is regularly providing updates about changes to policies and deadlines posted by colleges and universities. This very useful chart contains information about where, when and how schools are currently hosting admissions events, whether they have changed their candidate reply dates or deposit deadlines, how to contact each institution’s admission or financial aid office, and links to more information. Read the instructions regarding the filters, which explain how to narrow your search and sort results. This tool updates in real time as NACAC receives input. It is an excellent resource.
Virtual Tours: Many schools have turned their attention to fine-tuning their virtual visits. For example, Tulane University, which is well known for its enthusiasm for demonstrated interest, has created an outstanding virtual visit opportunity. Columbia University also offers an excellent virtual tour. Visit the websites of the schools you are considering to see if they have virtual tours as well.
Other ways to learn about colleges and universities from their websites:
Sign up for any online information sessions
Keep informed through each school’s social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, admissions blogs and podcasts, etc.
Learn if the school is offering individual opportunities to speak with admissions officers through Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or phone
Access the school’s student publications that are available online
Common App continues to offer answers to questions and assistance with disruptions specifically related to the coronavirus. Email them directly.
Having trouble managing your stress and anxiety? Read College Essay Whiz’s Guest Post by Melissa Cohen, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and author.
by Melissa Cohen, LCSW
Master's Degree from Columbia University School of Social Work and an Advanced Certificate in Social Work from New York University; author of ParentKnowledgy and STRESS-LESS...11 Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety and Live the Life You Want.
So, what’s going to happen next, what is everyone going to do, what does this mean for my future, for my family, the economy, what about college, graduation...and when will it end? These are just some questions you might be asking yourself and can’t get out of your mind.
If you find yourself feeling scared, stressed and anxious about what is going on, you are not alone. Fear of the unknown, panic and worry are normal inner alarms. They keep us safe and help us survive. They warn us of danger and cause us to find ways to protect ourselves. In the case of COVID-19, even though we have been following precautions and practicing safe behavior, rapid changes have put us all in a situation that we could never have prepared for. Most of us are experiencing more stress and anxiety than we’ve ever felt before, and because of this, we do not have the tools and strategies to help calm our fears and protect ourselves.
It is important to stop and think about what will help you the most. Here are some suggestions:
1. Refocus on what you can control. Take it one day at a time. Stay focused on your class work and don’t fall behind.
2. Set date markers so that there is something to look forward to and some time to reassess what you’ve been doing and adapt to things to come.
3. Try to stop reading too much social media. We think that knowing helps to calm us, but in this case, people are posting information that serves their agenda and might not help yours. Stay with 1-3 trustworthy sites and keep research to a minimum.
4. Redefine social interactions. Find safe ways to interact with your friends and family. For example, you might video chat, talk or text on the phone, have a virtual chat session, dinner, TV/movie or game night. Be creative!
5. Adapt and develop new routines or keep the ones that work for you. Get up, get showered and get dressed even though you are not going out. If you work, do your job. If you are in school, do your work.
6. Take an additional online class to get ahead or reinforce what you are learning.
7. Designate personal space for each family member. Discussing boundaries and expectations will help avoid silly conflict. Although conflict will happen, make sure that it is something worth arguing over. Don’t hold grudges – everyone is stressed.
Most importantly, acknowledge your feelings and talk about them. If you feel that you need professional help, reach out to someone. Psychotherapists are conducting HIPAA- compliant video sessions, but you need to find someone in your state.
As we all are adjusting to what may be the “new normal” for a while, you can be assured that many reliable sources are making every effort to keep you informed about changes in procedures and policies regarding the college application process.
Some recent updates:
Standardized testing dates: NACAC continues to offer insights and information about cancellations and rescheduling of standardized tests.
The May 2 SAT has been canceled. Makeup exams that had been scheduled for March 28 have also been canceled. Dates for future tests will be determined at a later date. Registered students will receive refunds.
ACT Tests: ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S. All students who had registered for that test date will receive an email from ACT with information about the postponement. They will also get instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date. The ACT website will offer frequent updates.
AP classes and tests: AP Central has offered a great deal of academic support for schools in order to complete the requirements of AP courses. As of now, they are working on solutions that may allow students to take AP tests at home. That will depend on the situation in May. If schools are open in May, exams will still be given May 4–8 and 11–15, with late testing scheduled for May 20–22. According to AP Central: “If a school is already closed or needs to close in March or April, AP makeup testing dates will be available.”
Look for updates by March 20 on testing and extensions on portfolio submissions for AP 2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, Computer Science Principles, Drawing, Research, and Seminar courses.
Some colleges may extend deposit dates: Accept Group has created a list of schools that have recently moved their deadlines for sending deposits for incoming freshmen to June 1. Refer to your college’s websites and postings for updated information.
Common App Support: Common App is monitoring the situation and has recently indicated its support to students and counselors. Support is available 24/7/365. Read this message from the Common App regarding the virus. They have many resources and answers to questions.
Please know that I am here for you in these difficult times. I am monitoring decisions, changes and cancellations which I will pass on to you. If you have specific questions or concerns, please let me know.