But I also don’t want to contribute to fears and anxieties around this topic, making people feel more out of control than they probably already do. So instead, I want to share a few college admissions-specific points and some resources that might be helpful to high school students navigating applying to college along with everything else.
The most immediate consequence of coronavirus that my students are seeing is with SAT and ACT test centers closing. The next SAT is tomorrow, March 14th, and the next ACT is April 4th. As more and more high schools close and shift to online instruction, those administrators are also having to decide if they should continue to host the SAT and ACT on their campuses. The biggest issue so far is the lack of consistent information. The College Board and ACT have published lists of school sites that have cancelled their test administrations, but they’re not always accurate or up to date. For the most reliable information, we’re recommending that students look at the specific high school or district website to find out what their plan is.
It’s hard to know how this will evolve for current juniors and sophomores. More colleges may implement test-optional policies in the next year to address the fact that students were less able to prepare for, take, and retake their standardized tests. ACT and College Board may try to implement a more flexible computer option for their tests, similar to the GRE. With little information, I’m encouraging my students to follow the usual timelines as best they can, but try to stay flexible and nimble as things change week to week.
Spring break is traditionally the time that my sophomores start to explore colleges they might be interested in, my juniors visit some of the schools they are most excited about applying to, and my seniors make a last tour of the schools they’ve been admitted to before choosing their home for the next four years. But as colleges are shutting down for the rest of the month or the rest of the school year, they are also suspending campus tours, admitted student events, and information sessions.
This is particularly hard for my seniors who may have to make a decision about whether to attend a school without the benefit of visiting, meeting current students, or attending special events. But while exciting, admitted student weekends are often not very representative, painting a school in the best possible light rather than giving students a taste of the normal day-to-day rhythm of a campus. I often caution my students against weighting that experience too heavily in their decision process.
The best way to choose your college hasn’t changed: think about your top priorities for the next four years – a particular major, the opportunity to do undergraduate research, a great local live music scene – and think about which college is best equipped to help support you in those goals. And remember that most students are happy with the school they decide to attend, even if it wasn’t their first choice. And as always, it’s not about where you go, but what you do when you get there.
For younger students who are trying to get a feel for places they won’t be able to visit, many colleges offer virtual college tours and have a range of interesting videos on their YouTube channels. And if you want to learn about a city you’ve never been to, travel sites like The New York Times’s “36 Hours” series are a great way to learn about a new city and their culinary and cultural offerings.
Yes, many things are changing, and that change brings with it some discomfort. But those changes don’t mean that you can’t go to college at the time you were planning to. And while college may look a little bit different for the next six months, or year, or year and a half, students can still get a great education and work toward their larger professional goals. And maybe the struggles you’re seeing play out today will inspire you to learn more about epidemiology or public health or higher education. We’re going to need smart people to tackle serious problems, and in the coming years, that could be you.
SAT Test Center Closures: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/test-center-closings
ACT Test Center Closures: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/test-day/rescheduled-test-centers.html
College Campus Closures: https://www.collegekickstart.com/blog/item/coronavirus-impact-on-campus-visits
Virtual College Tours:
YOUniversity TV: https://www.youniversitytv.com/