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Opportunities for proactive high school seniors

Opportunities for proactive high school seniors

This year, it’s becoming a bit more of a buyer’s market in the world of college admissions. Many schools that rely on out of state and international students are feeling the COVID 19 squeeze as families opt to keep their kids closer to home. In a Niche survey, at least 35% of high school seniors reported altering their previous college plans in order to stay closer to home because of uncertainties related to Coronavirus.

A client just called me to say that although her daughter was accepted to her dream school—which is out of state—they are reconsidering where she will enroll. They are paying close attention to the ways schools are responding to the pandemic and will be taking that into consideration when making their final decision. They are not alone.

What does that mean for you if you are a current senior? There are some silver linings.

Many schools have moved their decision deadline (sometimes called “intent to register”) to June 1. An exception is the UCs; however, if you need an extension from a school that has not moved its deadline, ask for it. Admissions officers are people too, and they understand that this is a stressful, complicated time for everyone. They have been working overtime to make accommodations for students during these topsy-turvy months.

In fact, even the UCs admit to some flexibility. In an email update sent on April 14, the University of California said that “Requests will be considered individually by each campus providing maximum flexibility to students needing extensions, and individual campuses have the authority to extend the deadline for accepting admission offers beyond May 1 or June 1.”

Even more surprising is that some schools are opening their application process again, such as Franklin and Marshall, which just announced that they are accepting applications on a rolling basis. In an email, they stated that (in addition to waiving the application fee) “application. . .decisions will be returned to students within one week of completing their application.” 

Why is this happening? Student attendance (sometimes called “yield”) is less predictable this year. This is good news to students who are waitlisted at their dream school. Many schools are digging deeper into their waitlists than usual. 

Equally important is that there may be more financial aid for students in need. As some accepted students turn schools down, colleges will have more flexibility in the packages they offer to students they take off the waitlist. Many schools are also digging deep into their reserves to help students whose families’ financial situations have changed because of the pandemic.

On top of these developments, it was a little easier to get into some schools this year. For example, USC’s acceptance rate rose over 4% this year—the highest it has been in three years. Columbia, Dartmouth and Harvard (the first increase in six years) also accepted a greater percentage of students.

So what should you be doing right now?

  1. Explore your options: Take a driving tour of nearby schools you are considering. Also, contact schools and ask for a personalized campus tour; I just took one of Wooster College in Ohio that was run by two hyper-passionate and knowledgeable students. The tour guides addressed on the spot questions about campus culture, diversity, and majors. It was a fun, informative, interactive tour, and I got a great sense of the campus from the comfort of my couch.

Another source for info on colleges is Youtube. Check to see if the colleges you are interested in have student interviews posted.

You can also call or email any admissions office and ask to speak to a student in your major, or from your part of the state.

  1. If you are on a waitlist, reach out to the school and express your interest. Update them if anything has changed (did you complete a capstone project? Just start virtual art classes to help parents working from home during COVID 19? Is your girl scout troop helping deliver groceries to older people in your community?). 
  1. Has your family’s financial status changed? If so, contact schools’ financial aid office to ask them to recalculate your expected family contribution. You will probably have to show proof/documentation, and not all schools will have more money to distribute, but some will, so it is worth checking in with them.

In short, pockets of opportunity are opening for those willing and able to explore and re-explore the evolving college admissions landscape.

COVID 19’s Impact on  2021 High School graduates

COVID 19’s Impact on 2021 High School graduates

Stay in the Zone, Juniors!

In this shifting landscape, a few things have become clear for current juniors: your application process will be an anomaly and quite different from the usual.

As a reaction to COVID 19, for example, many schools are becoming test optional next year (including the UCs). Colleges recognize that SAT and ACT testing dates have been canceled or rescheduled, and though the College Board says they will add dates (the ACT has yet to announce new dates), colleges and universities are being more flexible about testing. We expect even more schools to announce that for the 2020-2021 admission process, standardized tests will be optional.

Many schools will also be flexible with second semester grades. They realize that some schools have gone to pass/fail and some students will not have access to remote learning.

What does this mean for current juniors?

→If you test well, you should still take the SAT or ACT—a high score will still hold weight at many schools and might make you eligible for merit ail.

→First semester junior and senior grades will be more important than ever.

→Teacher recommendations will be important, too. They will help fill in the gaps left by the pandemic, telling colleges about your work ethic, your strengths, and your ability to work with others

→Essays and supplements will take on increased importance as well; make sure that you put your best foot forward in all of the written components.

→And though you might not have been able to engage in your usual extracurriculars during the pandemic (such as sports, orchestra, and theater), there are lots of ways for students to stay engaged and connected. 

→What did you do with your quarantine time? Did you take a course from a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses)? Did you develop a relationship with a pen pal in another country? Write and publish poetry? Set up a network to help elderly people in your neighborhood?

Schools want to see that you are staying motivated and curious; make sure that you remain engaged in your studies and keep in contact with teachers and counselors. Don’t let this time go to waste!