College admissions has always been overwhelming and stressful to families. There is a new level of college stress for families stemming from so much uncertainty for underclassmen students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, when will students be able to take the SAT or ACT test? Will colleges even require SAT or ACT scores? How will activities be viewed when we are practicing social distancing? When will campus visits resume? And most importantly, what should we be doing now for our college planning?
How Can We Prepare for College During a Pandemic?
I believe time is a sacred resource for all families with college planning even during this unprecedented time. This newfound time at home can be advantageous for students and their families when applied effectively to college planning. As we enter an incomparable recruiting cycle for ascending juniors, I have comprised a list of some important areas to help maximize your family’s college planning efforts:
Focus on Application Items. There are many aspects of college applications that can be started at this time. For example, students can build out their Common App profile, review activity lists, secure letters of recommendation, and draft out essays. I do expect the fall to be a normal time for application deadlines so it is important to maximize this time with key application tasks. College admissions departments have used online applications for many years so they are well prepared and very efficient in this area.
Virtual Visits. Many colleges are utilizing their YouTube channel or admissions website to host various admissions events to help students understand their campus better. I have been impressed with the quick response of colleges to transition campus visits and information sessions to online formats. I believe it is very important for students and their families to set goals to attend a few virtual visits a month to keep college planning moving forward. Virtual visits may allow for students to get more information about the college possibilities and ultimately help them determine which college is best fit for them.
Contact Admissions Officials. Yes, the phone and email are still valuable forms of communication. Admissions officials are used to being remote workers with their extensive travel schedules. I have found many of the admissions officials to whom I have spoken are missing student interactions and welcome students to reach out to them to learn about their campus. Many admissions officials even have online calendar scheduling services so students can reserve 20 to 30 minute calls in lieu of exchanging a lot of emails.
Independent Study. It is natural for students to have career curiosities that cannot always be explored in an academic setting. Most recently, it was very difficult for students to explore career interests on their own time due to demanding AP classes, sports, extracurricular activities, and family schedules. Now that time allows, doing a little independent study for a few hours a week can help a student explore an industry, careers, and companies. When done properly, this independent study can be incorporated into a student’s activities list and shows great initiative to colleges.
While we can expect more modifications of admissions requirements and updates from colleges in the months ahead.