Five Ways To Prep For US College Admissions

Words by Natasha de Sherbinin

18 June 2020

The pandemic upended life as we know it and created a significant amount of uncertainty around fall college admissions. High school juniors, however, can still focus on things within their control to ensure their preparation for applications come September.

1. Continue to prep for exams as usual

Be prepared and keep your options open. While many colleges have recently announced that they are adopting test-optional policies (meaning students won't need to submit their ACT or SAT scores as part of their application), students should expect that a few colleges on their list will require testing. If you still need to take the ACT or SAT, make sure you sign up for the August test. The ACT and SAT have also announced that online testing will be available in the not-too-distant future. Therefore, students should continue to take practice tests and prep as usual. You can keep track of ACT updates here and SAT updates here.

2. Create a preliminary college list, and start to demonstrate interest

As much as possible, set aside the health crisis and make a list of colleges based on your preferences—perhaps seek the help of a college advisor—and begin to research those schools. Start to demonstrate an interest in the colleges on your list virtually: join their mailing lists, participate in their video conferences, and follow them on social media. Search the college's admission website for the admission representative for your area, and then send an email to them, introducing yourself with some thoughtful questions about their school.

3. Stay the path and build upon your relationships

Some high schools have decided to adopt pass/fail grading policies this spring, but this is not a time to coast. Colleges may not be able to factor this semester's grades into your GPA, so they will need to look elsewhere for evidence of your academic success. Teacher recommendations will be more critical than ever before in this fall's college application cycle. Your teachers can vouch for the student you would have been this spring without the disruption of the pandemic. Continue to challenge yourself in your current classes, and seek out opportunities to go above and beyond. You may no longer see your teachers every day, so intentionally seek out other opportunities to connect with them.

4. Create a contingency plan for the summer

Given continuing restrictions and social distancing measures, we recommend that every high schooler create a back-up plan in case they can't pursue the summer activities they planned. If you'd expected to attend a pre-college summer program or had arranged an internship, reach out to the organizer to see if there is a virtual alternative. If it is cancelled, plan to do something similar to what you had planned. For example, if it was an academic course, find a comparable course online through your local community college, Coursera or EdX. If it was volunteering, see if you can manage a non-profit's social media or write uplifting letters to the elderly.

5. Build a network of support

While the decisions made behind the closed doors of an admissions office are always a bit mysterious to students, this year's processes will be even more unpredictable than usual. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that many current seniors are choosing to defer their admissions offer this year. Consequently, there may be fewer seats for current juniors in the fall of 2021, making some universities even more selective than in past years. Reach out to admissions experts who are continuously monitoring the rapidly changing landscape. Our advisors can guide families through this tumultuous time and give students greater peace of mind.

Focus on what you can control at this moment and use this time to get ahead. Stay the course and remember: admissions counsellors are humans! Colleges need students, so they will need to be flexible during this admissions cycle.

For more information or further advice, please contact Quintessentially Education.

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