Our six year college counselor, Chris Schifani, shares what has changed for students searching for colleges during the most interesting and dynamic year he has ever counseled.
Are you prone to test anxiety? You could avoid it completely.
Academically, almost all US colleges are test-optional this year; and given the difficulty many students have experienced with taking the SAT and ACT, it may not be worth it to take them, especially if you don’t test well. At the same time, other factors that used to matter less, like doing virtual college visits and writing college admissions essays, may be more important. Extracurricular activities and sports will also matter less this year due to the pandemic. Grades will matter more than ever before, so make sure that you do your best and have a good reason to explain any pre-pandemic grade issues.
Athletic eligibility is more flexible.
The NCAA is granting an automatic waiver to athletes for the 2021-2022 season affected by COVID-19. This means that students in Division I and Division II sports will not lose time of eligibility due to not being able to play because of the pandemic. The NCAA and the NAIA are also waiving SAT/ACT requirements during this time period.
You can still visit your dream schools—it just might be virtually.
Students can visit schools virtually through visiting school websites or looking at sites such as https://www.ednavigators.com/virtual-college-tours. Many schools still offer some kind of in-person tour, so it can be worthwhile to check. Zoom or Skype conversations with admissions staff, current faculty and students may also be possible. Students who want to know what it’s like at a given school just need to ask the Admissions Office there to be put in touch with the people who have the information they’re looking for.
Do your research, people!
Finally, research and money will matter more than they ever have. If students want to study in person, they need to see what policies their chosen schools have for the pandemic and how they have handled any positive COVID cases. They will also want to be sure that their schools still have programs in areas of interest to them (many schools have cut programs in response to COVID-19 financial pressures) and can still help them graduate in four years while connecting to internships and employers. Additionally, because more schools have to compete with a dwindling number of students, all but the wealthiest, most elite schools may offer more room to appeal a financial aid award than in the past, and may have altered scholarship criteria so that previously ineligible students will find themselves eligible for scholarships they might have previously overlooked. It literally pays to do your research!