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College Planning Around COVID-19

There is a lot of uncertainty in the air with COVID-19 disrupting and bringing the world’s human population to a near standstill. Not only is it obstructing the day-to-day lives of our country’s population, it is clouding the future of America’s youth, as well. COVID-19 is affecting the college plans of high school students around the United States. In this blog, we attempt to help students plan ahead and circumvent the virus when it comes to college planning.

COVID-19 and College Admissions Exams

Some colleges are foregoing their SAT or ACT requirements for admissions for the 2020-2021 academic year. Check online whether the colleges you intend to apply to are waiving their SAT or ACT requirement. The College Board has canceled the May 2, 2020 SAT exam, as well as the makeup exams for the March 14 that was to take place March 28. It is offering refunds to students who had registered for them, instead. Students can still opt to take the SAT on June 6, 2020, or another date – but the College Board reserves the right to cancel those exams, keeping in mind the health and safety of students and educators, alike. Similarly, the ACT has rescheduled its April 4 exam to June 13. Our best advice is to register for the June SAT or ACT exams NOW, to secure your spot for it/them.

Remember that SAT and ACT exams are more important than SAT Subject Tests and AP exams. Very few colleges require the SAT Subject Tests and no colleges require AP tests for admissions. Use caution with creating undue stress during a time full of disruptions. Students can take AP tests from home, but they won’t be multiple choice tests. Check the College Board’s website to keep updated regarding cancellations, and rescheduling of exams, and new test dates.

Students should look to their high school, school counselors, and college representatives to keep abreast of assignments, dates, and updates on colleges they’re interested in attending in the fall.

AP Exams

If you’re scheduled to take any AP exams, note that the College Board will only test students on content they were taught before COVID-19 (content covered before March). Students can take the exams from home, with each exam running for 45 minutes. The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP Exam, and additional testing details will be available by April 3. You can find out more through the College Board’s AP site.

IB Exams

The International Baccalaureate (IB) announced on Mar 23rd that this year’s IB exams, scheduled from April 30th to May 22nd, are being canceled due to COVID-19. IB exams, like AP exams are standardized, with scores accepted for college credit by several colleges. Colleges often award high scores if the student has scored very well in certain IB exams.

The IB made the decision to cancel its exams based on the number of school closures worldwide, and its need to maintain the same grading mechanism for its 200,000 students around the globe. Students who had registered to take the exams will be given a Diploma or Course Certificate based on their coursework, instead. For the rest of its students, the International Baccalaureate has given detailed instructions on how schools should complete the coursework for the rest of the semester.

Stay Engaged

Parents and their students should get to know more about their colleges of interest. They can check out virtual college admissions events, do live chats, attend webinars, take virtual classes, and even meet & greet with admissions on ZOOM. Parents can join Facebook groups for parents of admitted students, and their students can join admitted student networks. They can review websites such as BigFuture for college admissions info, and visit college websites, social media outlets, and get on mailing lists for colleges of interest.

Most importantly, parents should refer to old notes from previous college visits and have conversations with their son or daughter about where they really want to study. Once the soon-to-be college student has decided which college they want to attend, they and their parents need to keep demonstrated interest in mind. “Demonstrated interest,” means that the college applicant makes clear that they truly intend to attend that college. Some colleges take demonstrated interest into account, while others claim that they don’t. You can show demonstrated interest by attending virtual college fairs, and going through college interviews, or by showing how much you know about the college in an additional essay. However, applying through early decision is the ultimate way to demonstrate interest in attending a certain college. However, restrictions apply if admitted through early decision - so be careful!

Juniors, Get Ahead Now!

Juniors should create their Common Application profile, come up with an activity list, and start writing their resumes. This is a good time to start drafting your main essays, as well. We recommend that students in their junior year complete their brag sheets, and review class notes for any end-of-year tests. When it comes to applying for college, remember that grades come before anything else.

Senior Need-to-Knows

National Decision Day, May 1st is when students must reply if they are going to accept a college’s offer of admission. That date is getting pushed up by many colleges to June 1st. You should find out if this deadline has changed for the colleges that you applied to, which colleges are still allowing school visits along with other pertinent information regarding admissions at the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) website. Note that extending the deadline to reply to an admission offer will also affect those on that college’s waitlist. Most students on a waitlist find out after May 1st if they have been bumped up or not.

With everything revolving around COVID-19, colleges want to ensure they actually have an incoming class for the fall. If you have gained admission to multiple colleges that are probably competing with each other, you can try to take advantage of the situation: contact the Admission’s Office of the school you most want to attend, and update them in writing on your most recent accomplishments. Include the number and amount of scholarships other institutions are offering you, if those schools are offering more money than the college of your choice. Ask whether they can give you more financial assistance. Then ask for more merit aid from them, as well. Speak up, if you need the money.

Note that if your family’s financial situation has worsened (due to layoffs, medical bills, etc.), request the colleges you’ve applied to take this into account. You should also confirm what date the semester will start, as some colleges are delaying their start dates by a month.

Ask for Help

Access College America is a National Provider for Guidance with College Planning. We work with families virtually, nation-wide, to help their kids find the right college. The Access College America Advantage is a holistic approach to helping your student determine their strengths, weaknesses, and interests right from the time they begin high school. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about our college planning services.

Stay Safe

Potential college students have to make their (and others) health and safety a priority. For more details on how to keep your family save from COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s website. Here, we list several precautions to take to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) after using the restroom, before eating, before touching your face, and after blowing your nose.

  • Keep a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol handy for use, when touching surfaces in public places.

  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue – not your hands or clothes.

  • Maintain social distancing – keep at least 6 feet away from the next person to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

  • Don’t go outside your home unless it’s for essentials (food, medical, etc.).

  • Wipe clean door knobs with disinfectant at home. Wipe down light switches, laptops, tablets, phones, tables, and sinks, as well. Do this on a daily basis.

  • Wash your clothes after returning home from a shopping trip, etc.

  • Avoid getting too near sick people.

  • Wear a face mask if you’re sick.

Even during the midst of COVID-19 high school juniors and seniors can still keep moving towards their goal of attending their dream college. Prepare. Apply. Achieve.


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