College Tips- Navigating College Applications During COVID
This year in college admissions will be unlike any other, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts. Where colleges typically rely on test scores, academic reports, and extracurricular activities that depict involvement, their focus must shift to a more person-based application review. How will this affect applicants, and how can you adequately prepare your applications to highlight who you are? Let's have some fun.
Testing - SAT & ACT
Over one hundred colleges and universities have made testing optional for the 2020-2021 application season. While there are some test times being offered for the SAT and ACT, they are limited, and colleges are aware of the difficulties the COVID-19 situation poses in terms of access and availability. Test optional allows applicants to submit their applications without including any standardized test scores, which may seem really great for those applying during an already stressful time. This does, however, mean you need to ensure the rest of your application is a strong representation of who you are as a student and an individual.
With the shift to virtual learning last year and with some school systems just ending the year in March, it goes without saying that junior-year transcripts will look very different this year. So how will colleges evaluate your academic accomplishments? College admission reps will still look at the rigor of the courses you took, bearing in mind that the end of the year was a different one. While many schools shifted to simply pass/fail for the Spring semester, your teacher recs most likely will speak more to how you handled the change of situation and continued your classwork. It might be a good idea to speak with your recommenders about your experience so that they can reflect on you as a student both in and out of the classroom, highlighting critical skills you demonstrated during that time. With many senior years kicking off virtually as well, it is imperative you don't let the ball drop. Senioritis is a real thing and may be an even bigger challenge for you this year. Continue to push yourself academically and to communicate with your instructors. It is far too easy to fade into the background of a virtual class, so don't let that happen to you!
Since many of these stopped in the Spring as well, college committees are going to look at how creatively applicants dealt with the situation. What opportunities have you taken during quarantine to fill the time usually spent in extracurriculars? Perhaps you took an extra coding class online, or participated in digital organizing for a campaign. Whatever you chose, highlight it and explain why you opted for it. Discussing your activities over quarantine with an outsider can be helpful, as sometimes you do not even realize how impressive your initiative might be!
Never has the college essay been more important than this year. This is your opportunity to share with the committee who you are and what they might miss in the rest of your application. It is important you not fall into the trap of generic responses. Really take the time to let your voice come through! I highly advise having someone look over your essays prior to submitting them to be sure you are sharing what you think you are with the committee. The college committees do not know you, but your goal is to help them understand who you are and what you can bring to their school. As long as you are honest, thorough, and reflective, there are many different approaches you can take with your essays.
If the colleges to which you are applying offer virtual interviews, participate! Again, college committees are working with much less information than they are used to. They cannot rely simply on test scores, grades and extracurricular activities typically found when reviewing applications. It is up to you to advocate for yourself and fill in as many of the gaps as possible. Working through various exercises and mock interviews will help you familiarize yourself with those important aspects that make you special and unique! Interviewing via Zoom is also a skill in itself, so practicing with someone to nail it could help push you over the edge.
Putting it all together
This will no doubt be a very different year for college applicants, but it's also exciting! This is your chance to show college committees who you are as an individual, not just a test score or grade report. It might take some extra time to make your admissions applications really shine, so don't put it off. Now is the time to start planning and get the ball rolling.
As always, we are here to help and support in any way needed as you navigate this process. Whether you need an extra set of eyes on your essays, someone to look at your resume, interview coaching and practice, or all of the above, we are happy to help! Please do not hesitate to reach out.