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A quick note: Spark Admissions is 100% operational during this time! While we are sad we cannot see you in person, know that we are here for you via phone and video conferencing. If you're a current client, feel free to reach out to our team directly. If you're interested in learning more about our services, please inquire about our free consultations.
Below, you can find the latest information about how COVID-19 is affecting the process for preparing for, applying to, and attending college in the United States. We will be updating this post as new information arises, so please check back often to stay on top of the latest developments!
The closure of schools and the uncertainty around next steps due to coronavirus have dramatically changed the standardized testing landscape. Both the College Board (which runs the SAT and the AP exams) and the ACT are scrambling to adapt to changing circumstances.
As you likely know by now, AP exams have been converted to free-response tests that will last under an hour and can be taken at home. The College Board is providing online study tools for students whose high school learning has been disrupted or halted.
With the June 2020 SAT test date recently cancelled, both the SAT and ACT are adding test dates for the summer and fall. Although neither has ever offered online, at-home test options before, they both say they are prepared to do so if test centers cannot open in the fall.
Meanwhile, colleges across the country are rapidly changing their testing requirements for 2020-2021 applicants. Given the immense disruption to the test schedule caused by COVID-19, many colleges and universities have made the SAT and ACT optional for applicants in 2020-2021. Some have even gone permanently test-optional. To see which schools have made such an announcement, visit this page.
Furthermore, guidance counselors and other interested parties are continuing to lobby colleges and universities to reevaluate their admissions criteria if there are further disruptions to these tests. Those efforts indicate that there more changes are likely to arise in the coming months.
That said, be aware that many very selective schools would still like to see your scores if you have them! While we can't know what will happen, we do know that a high score is always an advantage. Rising seniors will likely have preferential registration for the next available test dates, so our advice is to keep studying and preparing for the test!
For current high school juniors, the closure of college campuses and cancelling of tours and information sessions is one of the most frustrating and difficult impacts of the public health crisis on the college admissions process. Visiting schools is an exciting process, as students start to truly imagine themselves on a college campus. COVID-19 has put these visits on hold.
Colleges' transition to online information sessions and tours started slow, but it's picked up immense speed in the past week or two. Now, you can find dozens of schools offering online information sessions and tours through sites like youvisit.com. To find these opportunities, search for "[School Name] + online information session" or "[School Name] + online tour." Or you can check the front page of admissions websites!
Registering for these events will help you demonstrate interest to your schools. But what about finding the right fit? A recent piece in the New York Times laid out the struggle that many high school students are feeling right now. But, while you can't be there in person, there are still numerous ways to figure out if a school is right for you:
Ultimately, while visiting schools is fun and exciting, students always need to do a lot of research at home. The current situation just makes that necessity all the more obvious.
High schools around the country are taking all kinds of different routes to finishing the year. While you should pay attention to whatever your current teachers and school administrators assign, you may also want to consider the following forms of academic enrichment and preparation:
Amid all the stress and uncertainty of this period, you don't want to run yourself even more ragged worrying about how colleges are going to think. As we've expressed elsewhere, this is not the time to freak out. All high school students are in the same boat right now, so anything you do to keep up with school or to stay engaged in your community is a worthwhile pursuit.
If you're getting a little stir-crazy, though, here are some ideas:
A note on that last one: if you're hoping to be recruited to a college for athletics, make sure you're staying in shape! Even though you can't have regular practices, you can still work on your skills and overall fitness while at home. Consider filming yourself practicing certain skills so you have material to send to coaches over the summer.
Lastly, we also know current seniors and undergraduate students are anxious about whether colleges will reopen in the fall. With deadlines to commit approaching, colleges are under increasing pressure to state what their plans are for the 2020-2021 school year.
While we won't know anything until the summer, you can read about the most recent declarations and what to expect at Inside Higher Ed.
Wherever you are in your college journey, we know this is a stressful time. If you have any questions or want guidance on any of these issues, give us a call.