Will my school’s reopening impact my college applications?
Every town, city, county, and state is operating slightly differently when it comes to reopening schools this fall. I’ve had students from high schools 10 minutes apart tell me about their school’s plans to go completely remote, or go to school two days a week, or go to school on a completely normal 5-day schedule. Some of my students have expressed concerns that this thing that is out of their control – whether and how their school resumes next month – will have a negative impact on their college plans. And the answer from colleges is, emphatically, no.
Colleges know that the world looks very different right now than it did last year. They know that the school day looks different, engagement with teachers looks different, after-school activities look different. They’re not using the same rubric to assess students. Which means kids now have an opportunity to create new versions of their previous life that maybe even work better for them.
My STEM kids are coordinating experiments in garages and driveways for their biology, chemistry, and physics classes. My performing arts students are trying to invent new ways to rehearse and produce shows on virtual stages. And my leadership kids are brainstorming socially-distanced ways to instill a sense of community and spirit among their fellow students.
Will I be able to take the SAT or the ACT this year?
The only responsible answer to this question is I don’t know. I’ve never been shy about my hope that standardized tests will play a smaller and smaller role in the application process, but I feel an unexpected sympathy for the decision-makers at College Board and ACT who are trying to balance the needs of all their individual stakeholders. Just this past weekend, ACT moved forward with their July ACT administration at a limited number of test sites, and then had to inform families that two students had subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 and many students and administrators had been exposed.
So when my students ask me if they should study and take the test in August or November or March, I genuinely don’t know. My expectation (my hope?) is that tests will be on a more regular schedule next spring, that classes will be more in-person and high schools will be able to serve as test centers for weekend SATs and ACTs again. If you’re a senior planning to take the test this fall, I would encourage you to be prepared for those tests to get canceled. And if you’re a junior trying to set up your testing timeline, you’re more likely to need to test in the fall of your senior year.
But, you’re also likely going to have many more test-optional colleges to choose from as well. So far, colleges have demonstrated reason and compassion in their policies, recognizing that if students can’t take the test, then they can’t submit it. My recommendation is to do your best, prepare if you can and test if you can, and then trust that colleges will understand if things don’t work out the way you planned.
Will colleges judge me for my suddenly empty schedule?
Again, the answer from colleges is a resounding no. Colleges get that your spring swim season was canceled. And now your fall water polo season has been canceled. Colleges understand that your monthly visits to a local assisted living community is not only canceled but flat out dangerous in the middle of a pandemic. Colleges know that our current economic crisis means that no one is hiring inexperienced teenagers to work part-time this summer.
So take a deep breath and try to relax. Whatever you’re doing during this time is fine. If you’re practicing self-care and working your way through the Disney+ catalog, that’s fine. If your big outing every day is walking the family dog, that’s fine. If your biggest accomplishment this summer was finishing a 1000-piece 3D puzzle of the Colosseum, that’s fine. And if you’re bored and you want to find something bigger to do, we have a whole list of great options on the Collegewise website.