COVID Admissions

The ripple effects of COVID-19 are just starting to make their impacts.  It’s safe to say that the coronavirus has upended the college admission process for the coming year.  You probably have a lot of questions and colleges are just starting to make adjustments to their admission process for next year.  Here are some of the topics that students and colleges are grappling with:  

I was going to take the May SAT but it is canceled.  

CollegeBoard and ACT have been monitoring the pandemic in an attempt to provide students with options.  Currently the June 6 SAT is still scheduled.  ACT has tests scheduled for June 13 (rescheduled from April) and July 18.  However, it’s true that you may only have one opportunity to take the test.  As a result, many colleges have announced they are going to be test optional (at least for the 2020-2021 application year).  FairTest has a list of test optional schools and schools that will be temporarily test optional.   

All of my activities are canceled for spring – what should I put on my activity list?  

Colleges understand – no sports, no spring performances, no student council or volunteer hours.  Your activity list may look a bit different than what you had planned.  Maybe it will include all the books you read while staying at home, a new language you taught yourself on Duolingo, or the tech support you offered your grandmother so you could all keep in touch.  If necessity is the mother of invention, maybe boredom is the mother of creativity.  Time to get creative.        

We are doing online learning – they say our grades will be pass/fail.   

Colleges are going to be making a lot of adjustments to the way they consider applications.  Don’t panic about your grades not looking like they normally would.  High schools across the country are doing their best in this unprecedented situation.  Many colleges are doing the same for their own students – offering them the option to have pass/fail grades.  They will be understanding of whatever your school decided for grading.   

I think COVID-19 will make a great essay topic.  

It’s possible that the pandemic has changed your school/life experience in dramatic ways.  It would be natural to think this would make a perfect college essay.  But don’t forget, many students are sharing this same experience. You want your college essay to stand out, attract attention, or be remembered by the admission staff.  Consider whether your experience or perspective is unique.  You don’t want to be just another coronavirus essay…    

What about college visits?  

Many juniors were planning college tours for spring break and those in person tours were likely canceled.  However, there are still plenty of opportunities to get to know a college.  Take an online tour, attend a virtual admission events, chat with student tour guides, follow a school on Instagram and comment on a post.  Not only does this help you gather information, but colleges also track these online connections as part of “demonstrated interest.”  Some colleges consider demonstrated interest in the admission process.  Hopefully, in person visits will resume in the fall.     

Take Action 

The best advice as always is to stay informed.  Visit the websites for the colleges you are considering to find updates on admission policies and requirements and be in touch with your advisor about changes to your upcoming applications.  NACAC is providing this online resource to students and families as a centralized place where you can check for updates on all your schools.   

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Demonstrated Interest – what is it and does it matter?

Finding a college is a bit like finding a date to homecoming.  You are both trying to get to know each other and size up your chances.  Scoping each other out online, liking a post on Instagram, talking to friends, going on a “group date” (aka a college tour).  You want to apply to colleges that you like and where you have a reasonable chance of being admitted.  Colleges want to admit students who have shown they are interested enrolling.  Demonstrating interest tells the college you may want to enroll at their school, which can make you a more attractive applicant.  So how do you demonstrate interest?   

Start Online  

Visit the school website and create a prospective student account.  Your student account is the first indication to the university that you are interested.  And it will likely be where you receive communications and updates if you decide to apply.  You can also do things like follow the college on Instagram or Facebook, like or comment on their posts, chat online with students or admissions staff, etc.    

College Visits 

Admissions reps spend the fall traveling the country to visit high schools and promote their college.  Check your school calendar for dates/times of college visits.  Mark these on your calendar.  Research the college before you go to the meeting.  Have 5 questions to ask the college representative. 

College Fairs 

Check for college fairs in your area.  Some college fairs have hundreds of college representatives attending.  It’s a great chance to explore lots of colleges in one place.  Some of the most popular college fairs are: 

Ask your counselor about other college fairs in your area and attend with your parents if possible.  They have questions too!   

Follow Up 

If you talk with a representative from a college on your list, send them a follow-up email.  You can start with “Hi!  We met at XYZ event.  Thank you for answering my questions!  There’s one thing I forgot to ask…”  This reminds the admission rep of who you are and what you’re interested in.  They may remember that when reading your application.      

Visit the College 

This is probably the pinnacle of demonstrating interest.  If possible, visit the colleges that are high on your list.  It can be for a tour or an open house – but be sure the school knows you are there (don’t just drive through on a Sunday afternoon).  Visiting a college earns you many “points” for demonstrated interest because it shows you are seriously considering that college.  Plus, visiting will give you a strong sense of whether the college is the right fit.   

All of these points of contact – from creating an online account to visiting the school – tell the college that you want to apply and enroll.  This is demonstrated interest.  Some colleges even take this into account when they are making their decision and may be more likely (by a small margin) to admit someone who has “demonstrated interest”.           

Take Action 

For each college you plan to apply to, take some of the steps above to show your interest.  In GuidedPath: 

  • Set up tasks to remind you of college fairs, college visits, or other upcoming events. 
  • Use the discussions feature to record your notes on each college. 

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