The college search process has changed drastically during this time of primarily virtual education. Test dates have been postponed or canceled and the only way to interact with a college is strictly virtual. Personally, I felt lost in a limbo of self-management and apathy towards college preparation. I wanted to know what colleges were doing for us, what we can do, and how it’s all going to be conducted. I asked four people, 2 seniors and 2 counselors, some of the questions I had.
The first people I interviewed were Briahna S. and Rosiejo G., two seniors, who are currently in the process of preparing for college and getting their resumes and applications ready.
How are you balancing schoolwork and college preparation?
Briahna: “I try to get schoolwork done first and then find time to do virtual visits. College prep does go with schoolwork, in English class we worked on college essays and we also have seminar which is a class dedicated to college readiness.”
Rosiejo: “Personally, I try to do the bulk of my schoolwork during the week and during breaks in the day I work on college work. During my lunch breaks I work on applications.”
What should colleges be doing for their applicants?
Briahna: “I think it’s easier if colleges are test optional because of test dates being canceled. For me, SAT’s were canceled 4 times before I took it a few weeks ago. I would prefer if they reviewed GPA rather than the score of a test that was taken once.
Rosiejo: “I’m hoping that they’ll be more lenient with test scores and do something more holistic where they look at more than just a students’ scores.”
Do you think COVID will have any long-lasting effects on college admissions?
Briahna: Personally, a college shouldn’t determine the worth of a student with a test score because sometimes you have a bad day and take a test you’re not prepared for or you’re not feeling well.
Rosiejo: “I think it will because of how small businesses were affected, I’m hoping that upcoming applicants have more leeway and get the same kind of consideration in terms of financial aid.”
Next, I interviewed Ms. Cummings and Ms. Jester, our school and college counselors, to get an adult’s perspective on this topic.
How are colleges adapting to the at-home decision making process?
Ms. Cummings: “Colleges are offering many different virtual options—virtual tours, information sessions, open houses, interviews, and admissions workshops. Some of the smaller schools are offering on campus tours.”
Ms. Jester: “Colleges have become really creative and want to reach as many students as possible, they have student panels so that you’re not just talking to an admissions counselor and make open houses as interactive as possible.”
What are some things to consider when selecting a college during these times?
Ms. Cummings: “I would suggest that families really look closely at how the schools are operating during the pandemic—if they have students on campus, and if so how is that working, how active is student life, and how have professors adapted to a virtual or hybrid model of teaching. Ask admissions if they allow students to sit in on virtual classes, talk to current college students about their experience.”
Ms. Jester: “A lot of things to consider and prioritize would stay the same; academic programs, internships, research programs, everything that you’re looking for in a college. Students may want to have conversations with their parents, or parents with them, about being closer to home and having the ability to come home quickly.”
Without standardized test scores, what will colleges be focusing on?
Ms. Cummings: “Cumulative GPA (9th-11th grade) and rigor of coursework will be even more important, so it’s vital that students are doing their very best in classes, using their resources well, taking initiative, and are active members of the school and outside community.”
Ms. Jester: “The application essay will be very important because it tells the college something about you that no other college knows about. No one else can write this essay except for you, no one knows you as well as you do. The letters of recommendation also tell them about who you are as a student and reflect 3 years of the academic work that you’ve done.”
Do you think colleges going test optional is beneficial to the student?
Ms. Cummings: “I think it was the right decision for school to go test-optional this year, given that tests were cancelled in the spring, summer and early fall when most students take them. I do hope that more schools remain test-optional after the pandemic, so that students whose abilities aren’t accurately measured by standardized tests have more test-optional choices.”
Ms. Jester: “They may weigh other pieces of the application differently than they did in the past and it does give students a choice in how they want to submit their applications.”
What are some activities that can be done at home to build the college resume?
Ms. Cummings: “Whatever hobbies you’re into, investigate how you can build on them. There are still service opportunities available either in person or remotely. More than ever non-profits throughout our communities need our support! If you’re an activist, explore how to get involved in a cause you are passionate about.”
Ms. Jester: “Engage with activities that you are involved with and contribute to the school community. It shows flexibility and ability to adapt to changes. Learn new skills, tell colleges what they are and what new skills you learned at home.”
The best things to do are engage with students of prospective schools, check the schools’ test optional policies, and hone in on your interests that you can include in your application and resume.