What Changes, What Stays The Same?

A year ago last week, all we could talk about was Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

Wow, how things have changed.  Felicity’s already done her time, and Lori continues to look for a loophole.  And we “real people” don’t really care about that story anymore, as we hunker down in our homes and wonder if school will be back before the end of the semester.

You may not have heard about this, but the world of college admissions was rocked again last September, when our largest membership organization changed the rules – not by choice, but under pressure from the Justice Department, which said colleges were inhibiting interstate commerce through Early Decision and the May 1 enrollment date.

So most of us in college admissions advising have known that this cycle would be different somehow.  We just didn’t realize it would look like this!

Class of 2020

The biggest problem is that if you waited for spring break to visit colleges, you’ve lost that opportunity.   Here’s a little good news:

a) Many colleges have extended their deposit deadline – you can check that list here (click on “Changed Candidate Reply Deadline Beyond May 1” to sort by that column).

b) Tons of colleges are doing virtual information sessions and tours – I’ve seen at least 2 spreadsheets tracking this – here’s the first one, and here’s the second one.

c) Hey guess what?  We’ve visited a ton of colleges as well!  Like over 400 in the last 8 years!  You can see our writeups and photo galleries on the Resources page of this website.

d) Yep, this totally sucks.  So much about this sucks.  You’ve been robbed.  Read this.  We feel for you, I mean it.

Class of 2021

You’re entering a college admission cycle that may see some change from previous years.  It’s ok to feel confused or frustrated or concerned about how this will play out for your class.  So we hosted a webinar in which we addressed some questions about what could change for next year’s cycle, and what won’t.  The replay is above on the right, and the presentation deck is below.

Bottom line:  some things will change in the upcoming admission cycle, and some things won’t.

What won’t change

  • Colleges are still looking for students who fit on their campuses.
  • Students will continue to need to do good research to find those best-fit colleges, and work to articulate how they fit and will contribute to those campus communities.
  • Students who apply to a balanced list of colleges are more likely to get good news and less bad news than those who apply to only super-selective colleges.
  • Colleges will still be evaluating grades from 9th, 10th and 11th grades, at least up through first semester, and they’ll be looking for an upward trend.  There will be more emphasis on courses with grades, as opposed to pass/fail.
  • Teacher recommendation letters will still help tell the story of who students are in the classroom, both academically and personally.  Teachers see student interaction more clearly than anyone else in students’ lives, so strong letters will continue to be important.
  • You’ll still need to write some awesome essays to tell your personal story, share your world view, express your aspirations and show colleges how you’ll contribute to their campus community.

What could change

  • Testing:  Some colleges could go test-optional for the Class of 2021.  “I’m hoping that this is enough of a tipping point for colleges to go test-optional,” said Jeff Schiffman, Director of Admissions at Tulane University, on a call this week.
    (some already have announced changes: MIT will no longer consider subject tests; Case Western is now test-optional for the Class of 2021, with info to come in the fall about future classes.  Expect to see more announcements like this in the coming weeks.)
  • Here’s some advice on what to do if you were scheduled but didn’t take the SAT on 3/14 (spoiler alert: don’t freak out, keep prepping, see this as the gift of more time!).
  • AP exams will be online only this year, and only 45 minutes.  We’re not sure about how students with testing accommodations will be served through this process.
  • Deadlines:  Some colleges could push deadlines later this fall to allow students to test through the October or November (or possibly December) test sittings.  Unfortunately this is likely to vary by school, so you’ll need to watch for announcements specifically from the colleges on your list.

After the recorded portion of the webinar above, we took questions from our live participants.  A few of the questions that were asked:

What about extra-curricular activities?  Most students are involved in things they can’t do right now; sports are stopped, music and theatre shows are cancelled, clubs aren’t really meeting and students can’t really volunteer right now.  It’s a difficult situation, but we’re all in the same boat on this.  Now’s the time for students to think about what they really love and find ways to continue to pursue those interests.  Could it be learning a new piece of music and posting a video?  Memorizing a monologue, filming and sharing it?  Learning a new instrument?  For athletes – compiling some clips of the greatest moments in your sport?  Creating a video instruction manual for younger kids just learning it?  If it’s academic or research-related, there are tons of ways to dig up new information online and compile it in different formats.

Bottom line:  we know this is difficult, especially in relation to extra-curricular activities, but now is the time for students to get creative and show that they are interested in some things in multi-dimensional ways.

Will summer programs continue to be offered?  We’re hearing lots of different stories about this.  Some may continue to run; others may be in a holding pattern at this point.  Depending on whether the program was academic or volunteer related, we’d recommend considering some other options for this particular summer.  Taking a course at a local community college, for example, could show that you’re especially interested in a particular academic subject, after having had your second semester interrupted.  And we may be entering a time when you don’t need to fly to a remote location in the world to volunteer your time to help people – you may be able to do that much closer to home in the coming months.  So even if you don’t get the chance to do a summer program on a college campus, look for other opportunities to explore both academically and otherwise.

Here’s the presentation deck from the webinar shown above:
Magellan College Counseling – The Coronavirus Curveball

Thank you for allowing us to be one of your many sources of information about college admissions.  As you can imagine, things are moving very fast right now and we’re doing the best we can to keep you updated!

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