Fall 2020 College Admissions and You

Large, gray, neo-Gothic, granite college campus building, Georgetown Univ. campus.
July 21, 2020

This month, myKlovr is taking a look at how college admissions will change this fall due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Our coverage has two parts. In this article, we’ll discuss changes that affect all upcoming high school seniors. In Part II, we’ll look at specific issues related to student-athletes and college recruiting.

Last Minute College Tours

Haven’t finalized which colleges are on your shortlist? Traditionally, now would be the time to take that last-minute college tour. However, as we don’t know which schools will have in-person tours this fall, it’s time to think virtual. To get you started, head over to my recent article on the topic. Please give it a read before you continue with this section.

So, let’s assume that fall is safe enough for colleges to allow students back on campus and for you to take a tour. Even so, colleges may still have restrictions in place that protect faculty, staff, and students. For example, your tour guide may not let you see inside many (or any) campus buildings.

To help you get a better view of campus life, try YouTube. I guarantee that for nearly every college and university in the country, there is at least one video wherein a student shows off a dorm room, lecture hall, or dining hall. It may not be a perfect substitute, but seeing what real students have to say is just as invaluable as taking a tour.

Standardized Tests

In response to COVID-19, some schools are dropping the standardized test requirement. And although the College Board has yet to make a final decision, they’re already designing an online SAT that students can take at home. It would be a tremendously different testing experience – one wherein the College Board can monitor test-takers from their computer’s camera and lock out all other software applications to prevent cheating.

Even though we don’t know what the future will bring on this front, the College Board is still offering fall 2020 in-person testing dates. My advice – sign up for a test date and continue studying.

 One final thing to keep in mind is that even if colleges on your shortlist no longer ask for standardized test scores, lucrative scholarship opportunities may require them. For that reason alone, aim for the highest score you can achieve. 

Junior Year Grades

Did quarantining at home this spring throw your junior-year grades into uncertainty? Underperform due to stress? If so, you’re not alone. I’d say that every upcoming high school senior is in the same boat as you.

I don’t have a Magic Eight Ball, but I have an idea of how high schools around the country, despite their varying eLearning policies, will help college applicants like you. Normally, when you apply to a college or university, your high school sends them a short document that discusses its course availability, extracurricular actives, and grading policies. I suspect that this fall that high schools will also include another document that describes how it rolled out distance learning during the quarantine and how grading policies changed.

But if this document never materializes, you still have two options to explain to colleges why your grades may have dipped this spring.

Essays and Recommendation Letters

Although no teacher or student was 100% prepared for online learning last spring, you can still take some time in your essay to discuss how you rose to these challenges and still attempted to do your best work despite the rapidly evolving situation. As always, be descriptive so that admission counselors obtain a clear picture of how COVID-19 affected not only your academic performance but also the learning experience.

The same advice can apply to recommendation letters. If possible, ask your teachers if they could explain how they modified academic expectations/assignments/etc. Details from teachers will complement what you write in your personal essay.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, we live in interesting times, and as a result, I want to assure you that college admission counselors understand that this year’s crop of applicants will have a unique academic and personal story to tell. At least for the next 12 months, the concept of the ‘ideal college applicant’ is significantly different than what you were led to believe.

Colleges may regard how you reacted these last few months as a strong indicator or your academic and personal potential. They may see you as a valuable addition to their school, even if your grades slipped or you didn’t earn as high an SAT/ACT score as you wanted.

In other words, trying your best is both all you can do and what you should do right now.

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