We’ve received a lot of questions from concerned and stressed parents trying to find ways to navigate the upcoming application cycle. We’ve decided to compile our responses to some of the most recurring questions.
1. Should I register for the SAT or ACT?
A growing number of schools are waiving the SAT and ACT requirements for the incoming class of 2020-2021, including highly selective schools, such as Williams College. You can visit www.fairtest.org for a current list of schools that have test-optional admission. Some of the most selective liberal arts colleges are also launching three-year pilot programs to test whether standardized tests are valuable elements in the admissions process. While we hope that most colleges choose to waive the testing requirements, or adopt a test-optional policy to ensure a more equitable process, students and families should understand that the SAT and ACT still carry a lot of weight in the admissions process. High test scores will continue to be valued over low test scores or no test scores at all, even for test-optional colleges, since they still have to report the average SAT and ACT scores for their incoming classes.
2. How do I decide on a school if I can’t visit?
Many senior high school students were hoping to visit colleges throughout this spring and over the summer. Some schools are now offering virtual visits, and the following websites provide good options to learn about and e-visit colleges in which you’re interested: www.campusreel.org, www.youniversitytv.com, www.youvisit.com. Rebecca Chabrow, Director of Enrollment Management at Gratz College, compiled a list of colleges and universities that offer virtual tours and online events, such as admission programs and webinars. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) also created a useful, searchable tool on its website.
3. “I can’t do any extracurricular activities from home. What should I do?”
Extracurriculars are not limited to sports, community-based activities, and debate clubs. Extracurricular activities can take any form, and now is an excellent time to think out of the box and stand out. The best way to create a meaningful activity is to explore activities that combine your passion and your talent. Students interested in journalism, for instance, can use their time at home to create their own blogs and cover how local businesses or organizations are dealing with the pandemic. If you’re passionate about mentoring or tutoring younger students, think about how to organize your tutoring and mentorship services online using platforms such as Google Classroom, Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime. You can also start your own local service efforts and help at-risk communities by providing delivery services. With some imagination, the possibilities are endless.
Families should keep in mind that admissions officers look for trailblazer students who can carve their own paths and find solutions to current problems. Students who find innovative ways to solve problems related to the pandemic crisis, or means to explore their interests from home during the crisis, will have a much greater chance of standing out in the admissions process.
4. My internships/summer program has been canceled. What should I do?
Many summer internships have been canceled, and, of course, students are affected in different ways. Lab internships, for instance, do not offer many work from home (WFH) opportunities. Most business-related internships usually give students more freedom to WFH. My initial advice: If the current situation is affecting your internship, engage in discussion with your boss or mentor and proactively suggest solutions. If you were offered an internship at a lab, for instance, see if you can analyze data at home, or even work on a literature review. When one of our students learned that her internship in psychology was canceled, she suggested writing a handbook on executive functioning, accessible to all educators in the hospital. That way, she was able to keep her internship while working from home.
If your expensive summer program has been canceled, and you had to pay thousands of dollars, my advice is to ask for a refund and find something more meaningful to do at home. The activities that will make you stand out in the admissions process are the ones where you’re not paying to play: independent research, blogs, student organizations, family commitments, and paid jobs will always be more impressive than pay-to-play services.