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.