Explore Our 2024 Guide to Gap Year Programs!

    JUNIORS: College Selection in the Coronavirus Season

    Posted April 28, 2020, 12:21 pm by Joyce Slayton Mitchell
    Empty lecture seats

    Trying to imagine applying to college is hard to do. Being at home instead of at school with your friends, teachers, friends, school counselor, and friends is not where you want to be. Not knowing when or if your senior year will begin in September is almost impossible to imagine. Let’s agree that it is what it is.

    Stay Connected While Applying to College From Home

    Most important is to get and stay in touch with your teachers and school counselor throughout the college application process. If you haven’t heard from your guidance (college) counselor, email him or her today. Find out if there is some kind of program being established for you to follow for applying to college from home. Ask about what you need to add to your schedule as you think about your college applications next fall.

    First, teacher recommendations will be required for every college to which you apply. Now is the time to email your teachers regarding those recommendations, don’t wait until you return to school when everyone will be overwhelmed. All colleges, with few exceptions, require two teacher recommendations. One verbal - such as English, history, foreign language, social science, and one math or physical science will be what the colleges want to read. Junior year teachers are teaching you the most rigorous level you have yet studied. Rigorous courses count more than the best grades.

    Prepare for your AP exams. Ask each of your AP teachers how best to prepare your for APs exams.

    How Should I Prepare For My Senior Year During a Pandemic?

    Senior year course selection is next on your list. Your guideline should be to take the most rigorous courses you can handle well. If you aren’t sure, ask your current teachers, which math, science and foreign language you should elect for next year. Your teachers will be eager to help you with course selection choices.

    Some of you may decide to take the year off from school and go for a Gap Year. There are many ways to do that - make up a job designed for the pandemic - such as tutoring other students online, baking, cooking and delivering food and other needs to all of the “Stay Home” people. Start a dog-walking business, a dog grooming business, outdoor painting jobs – houses, fences, garages, look around, and notice what you can do that makes sense with where you are. Explore university classes online. Many are free.

    It’s most important that you know and understand well, that there is no hierarchy of “best experience” for a gap year. The “what” you do in a gap year makes no difference to the most selective colleges – for getting in. What the colleges will want to know is “what you learned about yourself” – who you are - from whatever program or activities you choose for your Gap Year. Find more information on gap years here.

    Coronavirus Doesn't Eliminate All of Your Extracurricular Activities

    Oh yes, another thing. Don’t neglect your fitness, your sports and music, and arts and all school or club activities that you love to do. It is important to stay physically active. Go for a walk, jog, bike every day. You can invite friends and stay 6 feet apart from each other. You can run, lift weights, jump rope, practice your sport without teammates. Recruitable athletes should contact their coaches for workout programs.

    Lastly, try not to worry about the many unknowns: If your school goes to Pass/Fair, no SATs, no APs - If colleges will be on campus or online in the fall? Remember this: the colleges need to fill their class for 2021. They are as eager to work out solutions for you as you and your family are. Working together with your counselor and college admissions reps is the perfect solution.

    Upward and onward high school juniors! With hope and courage.

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    Joyce Slayton Mitchell

    Joyce Slayton Mitchell

    Joyce Slayton Mitchell, former public and school college counselor, author of WHO IS THIS KID? COLLEGES WANT TO KNOW! Writing Exercises for Winning Applications, 2019; 8 First Choices: Strategies for Getting in, 4th Edition, 2020. Education Consultant for U.S. College Admissions, US and China.