Many juniors are beginning their college search and many seniors are finalizing their college search from home. Due to coronavirus restrictions and closings, most students aren’t able to do the college visits they planned. Many are also having difficulty thinking about how to get started on the application process as classes are disrupted, school buildings are closed, college admission testing is being cancelled or delayed, and many parts of our everyday life that we usually take for granted have been disrupted. However, it is still possible to get started with the college application process. Here are some suggestions for conducting a college search and continuing to work towards completing your college application from home:
Look for Schools to Match Your Preferences
Students can use a free tool like Big Future from The College Board to look for colleges that match their preferences.This tool allows students to input information about test scores, location, majors, school size, sports and activities, and desired programs to narrow down a list of schools that match their choices. If students find a school that they are interested in, they can view detailed information and statistics about the school including details on campus life, the application process, and cost and financial aid. When students are logged in to their College Board account, they can save their list to their profile to come back to later. Big Future also has resources to explore possible majors and career interests. One big consideration may be what you can afford. This chart from Money ranks schools based on value (quality plus affordability).
Take a Virtual College Tour
Many college-bound juniors had plans to visit colleges and universities during spring and summer vacations this year that were derailed by the coronavirus. Consider taking a virtual tour instead. Check the websites of the schools that you are interested in visiting to see if they offer a virtual tour. You can also use sites like Youniversitytv.com or You Visit to take a virtual tour or watch videos on many different colleges in one spot.
As instruction moves and most likely continues to some extent online, make sure to complete assignments, meet with teachers during office hours, show up for online class sessions, and reach out to teachers with questions. When you apply to college, you will need some of your teachers from your junior and senior year to write letters of recommendation. So, these teachers need to know you and see that you are engaged. In addition, if you don’t already know your school counselor, reach out to them. They are a great resource for answering questions about the college application process. College admissions officers at schools where you are interested in applying can also be a great source of information. Often you can contact admissions officers by looking up their contact information on the college website and email them to introduce yourself and ask specific and well-thought out questions about their school.
Get Ready for the SAT and ACT
If you are a rising Junior, you can begin to prepare for the SAT by linking your PSAT scores to Khan Academy and practicing in the areas where you struggled. Rising Seniors can work on staying prepared if they plan to take the SAT in the fall by using these strategies from home.
Think About Your College Essay
Is there a story that you can tell that will reveal to us who you are? Begin thinking about what that story is and how to tell it in an interesting way. Read these college application essays published in the New York Times last year for inspiration. Then once you’ve written a draft of your story, check out the Common Application Essay prompts. As usual, the Common Application essay prompts are staying the same this year and are available now.
Remember that although things have changed and nothing is going quite as planned, there is plenty of time for things that would normally be lost in the busyness of everyday life. Take this time to catch up on a subject that was difficult this year, explore an interest through an online course or enrichment program, or get involved with a cause that interests you. Traditional classes and extracurriculars may not be offered right now, but there are still many things to explore and take part in.
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Nina Parrish, M. Ed.
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