Some Reassurance about the "New" College Process for the Class of 2021
I've had the chance to talk with most clients over the past several weeks, and one thing is clear: Though they are dealing with the repercussions of Covid-19 in varying ways, they are also doing a good job of trying to be realistic and look forward.
I have been watching and/or participating in a number of virtual events for College Admissions counselors recently, and there are some common themes, rumors and news regarding the Class of 2021 and the college search and application process. I want to talk about these and, hopefully, reassure you about your upcoming journey.
1. College Admissions Officers Care About How You're Doing
The most important thing I've heard repeatedly from College Admissions offices is that they are not looking for you to reinvent activities and education that you are missing or were cancelled due to Covid-19. What they DO want you to do is take care of yourself. Everyone is rattled with our new reality and uncertain future months. Admissions officers want context for what you're doing and feeling, and they will pay attention. The best way to provide context in applications will be the new question on the Common Application that will ask any impact Covid-19 has had on your life. I anticipate every one of my clients answering this question, and we will work together to express exactly what you'd like to say.
2. Teachers & Counselors will also have a Common App question on their recommendation forms that ask them about Covid Impacts
Regarding "context" (above) this will be helpful for you. Your teachers and counselor can tell colleges what changes to curriculum occurred, and what other alterations to school schedule and activities happened, as well as their insights into how Covid-19 affected you, if they know. If it's possible, be in touch with your High School/College counselor, so they know what and how you've been doing.
3. College Admissions Officers Do Not Anticipate that Deferrals from the Class of 2020 will have an impact on Admissions for the Class of 2021
This is a rumor that has been circulating - the idea that massive numbers of students are going to defer their enrollment for this Fall and thus result in fewer Freshman spots next year for you. According to Admissions officers, they do NOT anticipate this being an issue.
4. You WILL be able to take Standardized Tests
You will this Fall, though we don't know when. The SAT is cancelled until August. The ACT has not made a decision to cancel the June test yet, but I anticipate they will. Admissions and testing personnel believe there will be Fall testing dates. SAT and ACT are both discussing online options. We'll discuss, one-on-one, your tests, re-takes and test-optional colleges. If you're planning to test, be sure to register or re-register for a cancelled sitting, so you are in the queue when changes inevitably happen.
5. Tests really ARE Optional, if the college says they are.
BUT some colleges will want scores for particular scholarship or Honors College consideration. It's important to know exactly what each college's testing policies are. You won't be penalized if you don't submit test scores, and the rest of your application will be examined just as holistically as it would be with scores. If you have test scores you're proud of, you can still send them. Know which of your colleges REQUIRE test scores and which do not.
6. Colleges understand you might have Pass/Fail grades this Semester.
After you apply, some Admissions Officers might ask for Fall grades from you and/or your counselor if they feel they need additional information. If you are a student who had a great upward grade trajectory Junior year and want to make sure colleges know you were still operating at that capacity, finish this Semester/Trimester STRONG, so your high school recommenders and you can speak to that effort. (Remember "context" above in #1)
7. Virtual Visits Are Going To Be Around Awhile
Even though Colleges might make the decision to have students on campus this Fall, they probably are not going to allow in-person campus visits from prospective students. And they're most likely not traveling to your high school or a college fair this Fall. Take advantage of virtual opportunities as much as possible, including tour, information sessions, student panels and interviews, when offered. Colleges tracking "demonstrated interest" will pay attention to your visits.
8. Being a good Community Member has always been important: It's even more important now.
This is a direct quote from an Admissions officer at a top liberal arts college. While you should care of yourself and your family first, simple local service (get someone's mail, mow the lawn, take some flowers) will make both you and the recipient feel better. Beyond simple gestures at home and in your neighborhood (which I know you exhibit anyway) this is not a mandate. But, if you're looking for service opportunities in the broader community, they are available.
9. If you want to take Summer Classes, there are a lot of colleges offering Virtual ones.
This is a comprehensive list, compiled by my hard-working colleagues at Teen Life: https://www.teenlife.com/search?q=&l=&c=Summer%20Program&sc1=Online&p=1
You're going to have a successful college process, we're going to have fun together, and we're in this together.