By Gilda Joffe B.M, M.M. The Juilliard School, International Performing Artist and HeartMath® Certified Trainer
You know you have what it takes: You dance, sing, play an instrument, create fine arts, jam in the studio, play your favorite sport, act your heart out, present fabulous livestreams. It’s what you love to do!
So, now it’s time for college auditions!
Currently, due to the difficulties posed by COVID-19, many schools have had to offer different approaches to the audition process. Therefore, it’s best to be prepared for several different scenarios.
Before you panic, remember, that whatever school you end up attending does NOT determine your future. Only you determine that. That doesn’t mean that you don’t prepare the best you can; it does mean that temporary hurdles such as auditions are only one step of many which will create the beautiful mosaic of your life.
So how do you prepare for these challenges?
Preparing for the pre-selection for live audition/ or video audition.
First, make sure that you’ve exactly fulfilled the required repertoire. You don’t want to be eliminated from consideration because you didn’t read and follow the requirements carefully!
Of course, you want to show your very best capabilities. That means excellent preparation in terms of practice, expressivity, timing, memorization, stage/camera presence.
Perform for your iPhone or video camera many times over, to get a sense of what you really sound/look like! You need to be the performer and your own audience at the same time. Look at yourself, in a critical/helpful manner in terms of what you can do to improve your performance, as if you were looking at someone else.
Along with performing for your camera, you’ll want to do as many mock auditions for real live people as possible. That means friends and family in person or even over Zoom and Facetime.
Send only the very best visual /sound quality presentation. Don’t send something sloppy from your phone that hasn’t been edited nicely or that doesn’t represent your best qualities!
For the video
Sit or stand facing a light source so that you are well lit
Be sure your entire body is in the frame at all points (for dancers and actors) and that your instrument (if you have one) and posture are clearly visible.
Perform in front of a neutral background (wall) if possible! No judge wants to see the inside of your bookcase, what’s lying on your desk, floor or closet, or the contents of your living room.
Make sure that everything is in focus and that there are no odd visuals showing up on screen.
Experiment with mic placement. This will be different for each instrument and/or speaking position/dance/voice
Point the bell of directional instruments away from the mic and not directly into it
Do not engineer the recordings with added reverberation!
Be sure not to slump on camera. Remember that your performance begins the moment the video is recording! Smile with confidence and speak clearly without mumbling.
See you next time with tips for the live audition!
Read more about Gilde on our College Essay Whiz Consultants page!
As we head into the summer months, college and university officials are anxiously keeping track of the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic. As they engage in an all-consuming effort to plan for all contingencies, pondering the best and safest ways to continue educating their students, officials have difficult decisions to make—and they must be made soon.
Nothing is off the table, from alternative calendars to innovative food service. “The fundamental issue isn't whether colleges should reopen in August but how institutions can do it safely,” says Inside Higher Ed. In-person, online education and hybrid models are all under consideration. Many officials wonder if campuses should open at all.
Many schools have re-structured their academic calendars. Some universities, such as the University of Texas at Austin, Purdue University, Notre Dame and Tulane University, are hoping to open their campuses in August and end first semester in-person instruction by Thanksgiving break. Fall break may be eliminated; first semester exams may be virtual, and winter break may be extended.
Some schools have decided that the most expedient course of action is for their campus to remain closed for the fall. The California State University system chancellor expects that the entire system of 23 campuses will move ahead with a "virtual planning framework.” Most courses in the fall are likely to be online.
Each of the Ivy League schools has outlined a plan for Fall 2020. Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania, which currently plan to open their campuses to all students, have created “hybrid models” of instruction. Some schools have decided that only portions of the school population will be allowed on campus at one time. Harvard University recently announced that while all undergraduate classes will be remote this fall, only 40 percent of its undergraduates, mostly freshmen, will be invited to live on campus. Princeton University, which is also planning for remote instruction, is expected to allow freshmen and juniors on campus for the fall semester followed by sophomores and seniors in the spring.
Whether students are on campus or not, many large lectures will be held remotely while small classes may be offered with social distancing requirements. Stanford University Provost Persis Drell even indicated that they are considering holding classes in outdoor tents in order to “take advantage of the weather” and potentially slow the spread of COVID-19.
Living on college campuses will be quite different as a result of COVID-19. Alternative living arrangements are under consideration. Some schools have decided to limit dorm rooms to single occupancy. Others are considering the idea of renting space in local hotels. Intensive cleaning and safety measures in classrooms, lecture halls, bathrooms and dorms, such as those being implemented by the University of Montana, are essential.
In terms of campus dining, buffet-style and cafeterias may be replaced by “Grab-and-Go” meals. Only limited numbers of students will be allowed in food courts and dining halls at one time, and distancing will be required. Dining service providers like Aramark plan to offer “easy-to-assemble, take-home meals.” They will drop condiment pumps in favor of pre-packaged condiments and pre-portioned toppings. A movement to expand mobile ordering and contactless pick-up or desk delivery will also encourage social distancing.
Of course, plans may need to be modified as states like Arizona, Florida and Texas show increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and others like Maine, Vermont and Montana show lower numbers. These numbers may guide reconsideration of opening policies in universities like the University of Arizona and the University of South Florida.
The CDC’s guide for institutions of higher learning is being updated regularly, and school administrations have enormous tasks ahead of them. According to The Daily Collegian, Penn State’s student newspaper, even professors don’t know for certain which classes they will be teaching on campus and which will be done remotely.
All across the country, decisions about holding sports events and social activities, conducting regular testing for COVID-19, wearing masks and making contingency plans for possible later outbreaks should be made by the time the fall semester begins.
How to find out what specific colleges are planning:
The Chronicle of Higher Education offers an excellent and continuously updated alphabetical list of colleges and their plans for reopening.
Business Outsider also continues to monitor the plans for the top universities in the country.
Student Housing Business provides a detailed list of plans for a wide variety of colleges and universities.
Each college or university will list and explain all relevant and updated information on its website. Many universities are sending detailed updated emails and mailings to their school community as they struggle to determine the best ways to move forward.
Registered students should be receiving direct mailings, emailings and information via their college portals.
Got questions or concerns about the college application process? College Essay Whiz is ready, willing and able to help you find your answers.
For more reading:
Reopening colleges during a pandemic is too dangerous - The Washington Post
Several colleges plan to end in-person instruction by Thanksgiving - Inside Higher Ed
What will college campuses look like in the fall of COVID-19? - Forbes
Will colleges in the new coronavirus epicenters change their fall plans? - Education Dive
Cornell is Coming Back to Campus This Fall. Are Other Ivies Doing the Same? - Cornell Sun
As standardized tests are cancelled, postponed or re-designed, the options for submitting scores have become more important to understand. It’s essential to keep up-to-date with the policies of the schools to which students will be applying.
Here are some terms relevant to standardized tests that you may need to understand:
Test Required: Some colleges and universities will continue to mandate ACT or SAT scores. For many very selective as well as very large schools, these tests are second only to the GPA as a deciding factor when evaluating candidates.
• These scores may still be used to determine whether a student would qualify for financial merit awards, honors programs, highly selective programs and majors, or dual degrees.
• Division 1 and 2 athletes and home-schooled students may be required to submit scores.
• Some schools may allow students to apply early and submit test scores at a somewhat later date.
Test Optional: In addition to the colleges and universities that already have a test-optional admissions policy, the COVID-19 Pandemic has spurred more institutions to go with test-optional admissions. Over 50 schools have recently decided to give applicants a choice as to whether they wish to submit scores for the application year. More colleges and universities are considering this option, and it is likely that many of them will offer it for next year, at least. This means that the GPA becomes an even more important consideration, in addition to essays, recommendations, and activities.
• Keep in mind that if you exercise this option, you may lose your eligibility for the college programs and financial aid opportunities that may still be based on standardized test scores. That will require keeping up with the policies of each individual school.
• Consider carefully whether you should make every effort to study for and take these tests. If your scores put you out of the running for the advantages listed above, then you don’t have to report them.
Test Flexible: This option allows colleges and universities to provide their own lists of test scores for students to submit for consideration, including IB, AP, the ACT Assessment Tests or the SAT Reasoning Tests.
Test Blind: For some schools, students are not obligated to submit any standardized test scores at all, especially if they already have achieved a particular GPA. Students sometimes may still decide to submit their scores if they choose.
CEW Suggestion: The most logical course of action is to sign up to take SAT, ACT, SAT subject tests, and AP exams in order to have maximum flexibility when the time comes to apply. Many colleges and universities are waiting to see if tests will be offered in time for early applications to be submitted in the fall of 2020.
During these difficult times, educational institutions and organizations are trying to help alleviate stress and pressure by offering practical, sensitive and innovative solutions to logistical, financial and academic issues caused by COVID-19. Here are some recent updates in that regard.
College Decision Day: Extensions and Connections
Many colleges and universities have recently extended deadlines for students to commit to enroll. May 1 has traditionally been known as Decision Day, when accepted students confirm their intention to attend a particular school and to pay a deposit. This year, however, in order to be sensitive to the needs of students and their families, many schools have extended the date to June 1.
Many students are still in the process of finding means other than actual visits to learn more about the schools to which they have been accepted. In addition to the suggestions in my previous blog post, I have access to a cooperative service provided to IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) members, who are sharing firsthand resources that will help applicants make informed decisions. Please contact me if you would like further information.
Colleges may help to handle financial problems due to COVID-19
Colleges and universities have always had policies in force for families whose financial difficulties might affect their ability to pay college tuition and fees. According to NACAC, financial aid administrators in many schools will work with families whose incomes have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several courses of actions for families whose financial situations have recently been significantly altered.
Students and their parents should contact their chosen university’s financial aid office to ask for further assistance. Be prepared with all necessary documentation, and be clear and direct about your situation and needs. Also, students or families that have not completed a FAFSA form may do so until June 30, 2020.
Testing Cancellations and Postponements
New York State Regents exams cancelled: The New York State Board of Regents has decided to cancel all end-of-year Regents exams and has clarified the requirements to receive a high school diploma. The New York State Education Department has prepared a PDF with details about the revisions.
SAT Tests: The College Board is continuously updating test dates, policies and practices on their "SAT Coronavirus Updates" page. The SAT originally scheduled for May 2 has been canceled. The next SAT is still scheduled for the first weekend of June.
ACT Tests: The ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13. All students registered for the April 4 test should receive an email from ACT with information and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date. The ACT website will provide updates.
IB Exams (International Baccalaureate): The May 2020 examinations for Diploma Career-related Programmes have been cancelled worldwide, according to the IB website.
AP Tests have been re-designed rather than cancelled
According to a College Board survey of 18,000 AP students, 91% of those who responded wanted the option of taking AP tests rather than cancelling them. Many students indicated that they wished to have some control over their academic futures, especially when so many of their senior year activities, sports seasons, and events like prom and graduations have been cancelled. Students know that AP credit from colleges and universities provide a great academic benefit by allowing them to fulfill requirements and to take higher level courses sooner; in addition, students with a significant amount of credit may achieve second semester-freshman or even sophomore standing, which is a tremendous financial advantage.
Therefore, the decision was made to re-design the AP exams for this year only. Trevor Packer, head of the AP program and leader of the Instruction Division of the College Board, presented a webcast that clearly explained the reasons, format, and anticipated administration of all 38 AP tests.
Any students who will be taking this year’s AP exams should be aware of the following:
AP Coronavirus Updates provides information for AP students, teachers and coordinators.
Traditional proctored exams will be replaced by 45-minute at-home online free-response tests, which will be held May 11 - 22, with make-ups offered June 1 - 5. Students worldwide will take each subject’s exam at the same time. AP Central lists the current Exam Dates and Fees.
Scoring will continue to be on a scale of 1 to 5. Colleges and universities that accept AP credit have agreed to stand by the test format and will honor the grades that the students receive.
Students will be able to take the exams on any device, including cell phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. Any students who do not have access to the appropriate hardware or connectivity or who have limited data plans should reach out to their counselors or to the College Board, which provides a form for students to fill out by April 24 to request assistance.
Students who have documented learning disabilities or need for extended time in testing will be accommodated.
Since students will be able to refer to their books, notes and the internet, there will be no multiple choice or strictly content questions. Questions will be more like what the students have been practicing all year. For example, AP English Language will have a “Rhetorical Analysis” question; AP Literature will have a Prose Fiction Analysis; AP History courses will have DBQs (document-based questions), and AP Government and Politics will have an argumentative essay. The foreign language exams will have no reading or writing that require direct translation, since that could be done by Google Translate.
Students will have the option to hand-write and then take a screenshot of the essay and upload it, or they might type it and upload or copy and paste. The tests will be timed, with a few minutes after each question to place the answer. There will be a timer on the screen that can be turned on and off by the student, but it is advisable to keep it on in order to keep track of the time limits.
Students are expected to adhere to the prohibition from consulting with others, either personally or via social media. Sophisticated protocols and plagiarism software are to be in place to discover any cheating. Any students whose work is determined to be the result of cheating will be reported to all colleges and universities to which they have sent their standardized test scores.
Teachers will receive copies of their students’ answers by May 26. They also may monitor the students’ responses to ensure that it is their own work. Teachers will be allowed to use the exam responses as they see fit as part of the students’ grades (finals, quarterly grades, major assignments, etc.).
Students who are taking AP courses have already registered for the tests. If they choose not to proceed with the tests, they should check with their counselors and teachers to determine the advisability of that course of action.
To help prepare for the exams: Opportunities for extra study, preparation and practice will be provided, including preliminary simulations of test conditions at home. The College Board has provided free online review courses, video tutorials, and online simulations of the exams. AP LIVE on YouTube will feature sessions given by experienced teachers in each course for review of the material and for guided practice answering questions for the exam. There is an AP LIVE schedule for students to consult. As of late April, there will be an at-home testing guide for students as well.
For the future: Colleges are already anticipating the need to help freshmen overcome any gaps in courses that are essential to the coursework they will be handling as undergraduates. Students may work with their advisers in their colleges in order to determine if they would be more comfortable re-taking classes like Calculus, even if they completed the course in high school, if that becomes necessary.
I will continue to keep everyone up-to-date as more information becomes available. If you have specific questions that you would like me to answer, don’t hesitate to reach out.
By now in your college process, you may have started to wonder, “Why on earth is college so expensive?” and likely also, “Why is it so much more expensive than it used to be?” It’s a multi-faceted and much-debated topic, with educators, administrators, policy-makers, and more all weighing in, so let’s dive in! We’ve reviewed several articles on the matter, and we’ll start by taking a look a college’s primary expenses: faculty, staff, and facilities.
1) Faculty: Faculty salaries, payroll taxes, and benefits add up to a significant portion of a college’s expenses. Not only that, but as wages have increased across sectors, education has needed to keep up in order to attract top talent.
2) Staff: Consider all of the departments a college needs to operate beyond its teaching faculty: admissions, financial aid, development, marketing, student affairs and extracurricular activities, IT, maintenance, healthcare, dining, career counseling, academic support, to name just a few. Some departments, like admissions and financial aid, are affected by the increasing demand for college and have needed to add staff in order to process the deluge of applications received each year. Others, like IT, maintenance, and healthcare, require skilled professionals who are proficient in their fields as well as the latest technology. Further, many colleges have vastly improved their residential experiences, investing in higher quality student housing and dining options, and thus increased the cost of residential life. Finally, the college experience has expanded to encompass more than solely academics, bolstering their extracurricular and career counseling departments as a result.
3) Facilities: Many facilities are required for the traditional college experience. Dorms, dining halls, health centers, athletic and fitness centers, visual and performing arts centers, STEM labs, and general classroom technology are necessary for students and faculty alike. These resources have not only expanded but have become more expensive over time, and all tuitions contribute to cover these expenses, regardless of a particular student’s program of choice.
A great deal of the increase is due to the fact that it simply costs more nowadays to educate the same number of people. The increase is also due to the fact that the decrease in public funding has resulted in a need for colleges to charge more; that the availability of financial aid has allowed colleges to charge more; and that as demand and competition for college admission has increased, colleges have become able to use pricing strategy to shape their student body (e.g., by increasing the listed tuition and offering discounts or aid to students they would like to attend).
Whew! As we said, it’s a complex topic, but we hope we’ve helped clarify it for you! Regardless of the reasons, college is expensive, so be sure to check out the financial aid resources on the CEW site as well as on the Common Application itself.