September 28, 2020
By Deena Maerowitz, J.D., M.S.W
As with so many aspects of life, COVID-19 has introduced disruption and uncertainty to college planning. For those looking to start college in fall 2021, almost every step of the school search will be impacted. In any year, thinking about college can feel stressful. This year, the number of unknowns may make the process seem overwhelming. Students can reduce anxiety and build confidence by focusing on tasks that can be done now:
- Make the most of online resources to research and build relationships with colleges. Spring is a common time for high school juniors to visit campuses. The benefits of this activity are twofold: students get to know a college’s programs and community culture, and admission officers see this investment of time and resources as a strong indicator of student interest. Many schools are now offering virtual tours and information sessions to accomplish these goals. Also follow schools of interest on social media channels.
- Continue preparing for standardized tests. Spring SAT and ACT dates were cancelled, and the availability of future dates is unpredictable. Thus, many colleges have announced that they will become “test optional” for entry in 2021. Nonetheless, securing a strong score on these tests may boost your application.
- Explore the Common Application and start drafting essays. Targeting specific school deadlines, candidates usually start assembling information for the Common Application during the summer prior to their senior year. Take advantage of time that isn’t being spent on testing and visiting campuses to begin this task. Think strategically about the activities you will list. Becoming familiar with the application format and data now will make completing it easier later. Similarly, start brainstorming and drafting essays inspired by Common Application prompts. Doing this work sooner will free up time later.
- Consider how you are using this time now. We are amidst a global event that will have widespread and varying impacts. Some families will experience personal losses, and some are on the front lines of combatting the pandemic. Those more removed are called on to do their part by staying home for weeks on end. In this context, what are you doing to grow as a person and support others? This is a complex time where small and large actions can be important in different ways. Expect this question to arise in upcoming interviews and possibly in supplemental essay questions.
Most importantly, take a deep breath and keep going. Going to college has always been the culmination of intense personal growth. That has not changed. Staying focused, even in challenging times, is the best strategy for achieving your educational goals.
This post is excerpted from an online publication by the Bertram Group. Deena Maerowitz, an educational consultant at the Bertram Group, advises students throughout the college admissions process. She works with students ranging from freshmen to seniors and is an expert in both undergraduate and graduate education. She can be reached at [email protected]