The global pandemic changed the college admissions process as we knew it and now, parents across the country have been thrown a curveball in what’s already a confusing and complex process. Gaining admissions into a highly selective college is much harder than it ever has been before and the rules of yesterday don’t necessarily apply to today’s prospective college student. Very few colleges are open for tours, even college fairs are online and how does a school that’s gone test-optional impact your chances for gaining admissions? We’ll demystify the college application process for a Post-COVID world.
Academic excellence. The single most important piece of advice we offer is to keep your course load challenging while maintaining high performance. A student’s transcript tells a story and predicts success. Selective admission committees are looking for great grades, high rigor and indicators of a fit-to-major. Always focus on maintaining great grades.
Understand the review process. COVID-19 has forced many colleges to replace their traditional review process with a holistic approach. During a holistic read, an equal emphasis on each part of the college application is applied. More specifically, great grades and test scores are not enough to gain admissions. For example, if your student is interested in the University of Texas at Austin, realize your student should apply with evidence of ‘fit’ towards their first-choice major.
Create an SAT/ACT test plan. Due to the lack of access, standardized tests have become an even more controversial topic during the pandemic. Finding a test center is complicated these days. Now, nearly 1,500 colleges have elected a test-optional policy for the class of 2021. It will be interesting to see where the consensus falls going forward in the use of test scores as a measure of future academic success. Beware of bypassing these tests all together, many universities will require test scores to grant merit aid. Also, if applying as a test-optional applicant, grades and rigor become far more important.
Get creative. Solutions are at your fingertips to find activities and clubs. Harness the power of living virtually and create action, impact, and community by organizing online to make a meaningful influence in the world. Creating independent learning opportunities, such as a Capstone Project, demonstrates intellectual curiosity. MOOCS are an effective way to explore and engage in additional learning topics too. Many high schools have started to bring programs online to make sure that students are still able to be to participate in these important programs that enhance the academic curriculum. In fact, this has encouraged a whole new way to view extracurricular involvement which can extend far beyond your own backyard or city in many cases opening windows of opportunity for students beyond what they could even imagine before. In some ways this helps level the playing field for all students. The shy student may participate more fully online than in-person. The student from a smaller town is no longer at a disadvantage because of a lack of offerings locally. The world is quite literally at your fingertips. Take full advantage of this opportunity. Be creative and show your leadership skills. If you don’t find what you are looking for, use current platforms to create clubs and organizations that meet the needs of other students like you.
Demonstrate interest. Many colleges have done an excellent job in creating a strong online presence including admission office meet and greets, virtual campus tours, online college fairs and high school visits, webinars and other events that can be experienced online through the college websites. Take advantage of these opportunities because your involvement will demonstrate to your college interest and will also be tracked by admissions which may be used as a part of the decision process. Create meaningful relationships. While we all adapt to an online presence, connecting with your faculty and counselors is still extremely important. These mentors will still need to write you a letter of recommendation and in some cases, may be the deciding factor of gaining admissions into college, should the admission’s officer connect with the high school for added questions. Be sure to log-in on time to all classes, submit assignments on time, sign up for office hours, arrange a meet & greet with the counseling staff, tutor a peer struggling and aim high to be a leader in all ways.
Disruptions will be forgiven. College admission’s officers are real people and everyone is experiencing a new way of life. Knowing how to highlight your strengths, explain any extenuating circumstances and pivot quickly for success is the best strategy to gaining admissions into a completive college. Ask for help when it’s needed and always aim high.