Chances are, if you are a current high school junior, your entire world has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools are closed, classes have been moved online, and nation-wide tests postponed or cancelled all together. At times, it can be unbelievable that this is our new reality.
It is likely that you did not envision your junior year ending in this fashion. You had dances, recitals and spring breaks to look forward to! Not only has your junior year been upended, but as our nation decides whether to ease back into normalcy or remain under restrictions, your senior year now hangs in the balance.
Thankfully, there is good news! Colleges across the country are experiencing similar frustration and confusion as they decide how to navigate this season. Many institutions are facing difficult choices about how to recruit new students while keeping others committed during these months of lockdown. In fact, the large majority of leaders in college admissions are responding with a resounding, “We Get It”.
Per his article by a similar title, Brennan Barnard jokes that “embrace uncertainty” could not only be the catch phrase for spring 2020, but the general theme of college admissions. Although admissions leaders may not be as well-versed in responding to a pandemic, many can relate this time to other remarkable seasons in years past. Their ability to weather the storms and make necessary adjustments should act as encouragement for you through this pandemic and the months that lie ahead.
Perhaps you still have worries—it would be surprising if you did not! But just as admissions leaders around the US are extending encouragement to high school students like yourself, we wanted to address your worries head-on and provide some practical tips to conquer them.
Five Fears You May Be Experiencing, and How to Capitalize on Them:
1 – My Test Was Cancelled
Standardized tests, one of the many methods colleges use to evaluate applications, have been cancelled, postponed, or moved virtual in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The College Board has shifted its upcoming test to August with hopes that it will still be offered in the in-person format. And, while the ACT remains silent on the probability of its June test, it is unlikely that it will occur, at least in many states. For many juniors like yourself, this raises the concern of not just when, but if you will be able sit for these important tests.
In hopes to address the widespread concern of when and how the SAT and ACT will be offered, many universities have chosen to go ‘test-optional’ for the upcoming year. This simply means that applicants are not required to submit official test scores but can choose to if they have the ability to take the exam. If you are curious about whether the colleges you are interested in have adopted similar policies for the upcoming year, reach out to your counselor as soon as possible!
While some schools have adopted temporary policies that may not require test scores, admissions leaders are still encouraging students to test if they have the ability to. In fact, having test scores could perhaps strengthen your application in ways they may not have in the past, and many schools still link test scores to merit scholarship eligibility. So, how do you prepare for a test that you don’t know the date of or where it will be located?
Though it may be tempting, now is not the time to become lax in your preparation. Try your best to stick to the regimen you were following prior to COVID-19. Create a comfortable, quiet, space where you can study without distractions. Dedicate specific times each week to reviewing content and taking practice sections. In addition to your routine review, we recommend taking one practice test per every six hours of review, or once a month at a minimum. Devoting time to your preparation will ensure that you are ready for test day, even if you are unsure when that day will be. More than anything, make the decision to use your time at home wisely and continue to be disciplined—it will pay off in the end!
2 – My Grades Have Changed
In order to adjust for the variables associated with moving school online, many schools have made the decision to utilize a pass/fail grading system. Coupled with the stress of classes being taught virtually, students are finding themselves dedicating more hours and effort to coursework which may not be accurately expressed by a pass/fail grade. Thankfully, colleges and universities understand that this spring semester will have a huge asterisk next to it. Leaders are evaluating applications and amending policies, understanding that some circumstances, like pass/fail grades, are out of your control.
Although this form of grading operates outside of the traditional four-point scale, many schools still provide students the option of taking a letter grade. This is certainly the best option for your GPA! Choosing to take a letter grade instead of pass/fail will also provide prospective colleges evidence of your abilities as a student and allow them to better gauge the rigor of your coursework.
To get the most out of your semester, stick to your routines and find new ways to be successful in the virtual classroom. A great way to do this is by setting measurable, achievable goals for yourself at the start of every week. This will help you stay focused and spend more time on important tasks. Having measurable goals may also aid in the collegiate admissions process, as achieving these goals will provide you with confidence to reinforce your academic accomplishments from this semester. Goal setting will not only help you get through the end of this difficult junior year but is a skill that will benefit you for years to come!
3 – My Technology is Unreliable
Rest assured that you are not the only student who has struggled with unreliable wi-fi connections and slow computers. In fact, many students across our nation are finding it difficult to acclimate to online learning. Some students have reported finishing up their spring semesters using only their cell phones as they are unable to access computers and broadband connections to support virtual learning. This issue has created fears for many students who are needing to meet deadlines, take online tests, or tune into video lectures at a certain time of day.
If you find yourself without the technology or wi-fi connection you need to succeed during this semester, know that there are solutions for you! Many schools have allowed students to rent or share computers to aid in their online coursework. If you do not have access to a device, we recommend reaching out to your high school to see if this is an option for you. If you do have a laptop but lack the wi-fi strength to accommodate video calls and digital learning platforms, many college campuses have extended their visitor wi-fi connections to parking lots, allowing students to tap into their network from the comfort of their cars. Otherwise, look into bulk downloading assignments and worksheets using a wi-fi signal or the hotspot on your phone and then completing the majority of your school work offline.
4 – My Season Was Ruined
The shutdowns associated with COVID-19 have likely affected more than just your academics. Many students are now feeling the pain of losing a sports season, a recital, or a final project they’d been preparing for over the course of the year. These extracurricular activities typically help bolster your application and give you an edge during the admissions process. But without them, how are you supposed to stand out?
Colleges understand that your activities have been cancelled and will not hold it against you! Admissions committees are impressed not by the amount of activities on your resume, but the passion behind your involvement. That being said, remaining engaged amidst COVID-19 will set you apart from other students.
Although your normal activities have been cancelled, look to stay involved in your local community. Utilize your individual skills and talents to help others during this time of isolation. Take advantage of this break from extracurricular activities to read books you have been wanting to explore, brush up on old hobbies or discover ways to keep expanding personally during this unprecedented time.
5 – My Senior Year is Uncertain
As spring 2020 slowly fades into summer and your junior year comes to a close, you are probably wondering whether your upcoming senior year will look different than you imagined. Summer camps may be postponed or cancelled, college visits suspended, and school districts unsure about whether they will reopen for the fall semester. While it is easy to become discouraged, now is the time to get creative and innovative with your summer plans!
Continue your college search, even while cooped up at home. Many institutions have developed virtual tours you can tune into through their websites or YouTube channels. Remaining focused on your future goals will help alleviate the stress of heading into an uncertain senior year.
Although you may not know what the upcoming months have in store, choose to use this time to grow personally and academically. Seek out ways to expand yourself. Sign up for free, online courses where you learn about everything from literature to cooking. Take care of your health and continue to prioritize the people and hobbies that enrich your life.
During this season of shutdown, we want to encourage you that no matter what the future has in store, do not allow this pandemic to put your dreams and goals on hold.