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covid-19 college planning resources Byram Hills High School

Virtual Visits

What opportunities will students have to virtually visit a college?

The opportunity to interact with colleges has never been better. Colleges are expanding virtual tours, information sessions, and making it easier for students to learn more about colleges through social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media platforms. Colleges are revising their websites regularly to increase student access. Many are adding direct access opportunities such as “Advising Sessions” and “Chat Days” with admissions representatives and current college students. College admission representatives also encourage prospective students to reach out directly to them to learn more about about programs and opportunities.

Demonstrating Interest

What opportunities will students have to demonstrate their interest in a college if the campus visit is not an option?

Colleges understand that students may not have the opportunity to demonstrate interest and learn more about a college through the traditional on-campus visit. As a result, they will use their ever-growing virtual opportunities to track and judge student interest. Remember that most, if not all student contact with colleges, whether virtual or through direct conversation are tracked as indicators of student interest. While virtual contacts may become the norm for at least the next academic year, we encourage students with specific questions to email or call a college and speak to an admissions representative. It's a great way to learn more about a school and establish a relationship with your prospective college.

Grades/GPA

How will colleges deal with the reality of non-traditional grades such as Pass/Fail and the potential for missed opportunities for grade improvement in the spring of 2020?

Every college representative that we spoke to assured us that students would not be penalized due to changes in grading brought about by COVID-19. Moreover, colleges (including the most competitive) are confident that non-traditional grades such as “P” (Pass) will not negatively impact how a college evaluates an applicant’s academic record. However, there was a clear message that grades in the first and second marking periods of senior year may be viewed more closely to establish a student’s record and progress than in the past. In addition, college admission offices may have to rely more on teacher and counselor letters of recommendation and direct input from counselors.

Extracurricular Activities

How might students whose extracurricular activities are curtailed or placed on hold demonstrate their commitment to learning and engagement outside of the classroom?

There is full agreement from college representatives that they understand the negative impact COVID-19 restrictions have had on many extracurricular activities. Admissions representatives will be looking for ways in which students stayed engaged in their respective areas of interest. The operative question for college representatives is: “What did you do during the pandemic to maintain your areas of interest, to help out in some way, to try something new, or remain positively engaged with your community and world?” Representatives also suggested that students use the dedicated space on the 2020-2021 Common Application to explain how their extracurricular activities have been limited.

Consider some of these suggestions.

SAT/ACT

What guidance are you giving to students who planned on raising their score on the SAT or ACT this spring or have not yet taken a standardized test?

Colleges with test requirements are recommending that students continue to prepare and test in the summer and fall. Some colleges have decided to go test-optional just for the Class of 2021. Colleges that have been test-optional do not share the same concerns as they are less impacted. Colleges that require the SAT or ACT have made it clear that they remain holistic in their application process and that they will adapt to whatever disruptions or changes that may occur with standardized testing in the days and months ahead.

Admissions Standards/Selectivity

Do you anticipate a change to your admissions standards or selectivity based on changes due to COVID-19?

College representatives said they did not anticipate any changes in selectivity, but three stated that they will be more flexible with admissions decisions and plan to admit more students to the Class of 2021 to compensate for an anticipated drop in the number of students who matriculate (i.e., Yield Rate). While some students may benefit from such changes, we encourage students to stay focused on high-quality academic work and involvement in one’s school and community.

Deferment Concerns

Deferment (High numbers of deferments will limit spaces for the Class of 2021)

There was universal agreement that no changes in deferment policy will be granted due to COVID-19 impacts based on disruptions to college openings in the fall. All but one of the colleges sampled do not see any significant increase in requests, though in general students and parents have been making inquiries to get a better understanding of their options. Only one college in our sample is seeing an increase in requests and is capping the number to prevent any impacts on the Class of 2021.

Common App Changes

In response to the COVID-19 crises, the Common Application will provide students who need it a dedicated space to elaborate on the impact of the pandemic, both personal and academic. In addition, Common Application will provide a FAQ page that will provide students with guidance on how to use this new option and report impacts such as illness and loss, housing and employment disruptions, and shifting family obligations.

NCAA

How will NCAA recruiting and eligibility be impacted?

The NCAA has released guidance extending recruiting dead periods for Division I and Division II recruits. However, college coaches are still able to contact recruits by phone, email and video conferencing. Now is a good time to reassess your list of colleges, update or create videos, and reach out to college coaches.

Advice from Colleges

What is your best overall advice to students?

Each college representative expressed the hope that students will step back and understand that all crises pass and that colleges will adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19. They encourage students to remain positive and focused on doing their best in no matter where they are in their journey to college. The representative from Wake Forest put it best: “Stay engaged, be a part of your community in whatever way you can, and remain interested in the world around you.”

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Kristina Wilson
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