Although it might feel like we’ve been living in a vacuum the last several months, school is starting,, and many of our teens are entering their senior year! Whether your senior is participating in remote learning or physically present, this school year will be unorthodox for all. Nevertheless, there is one thing that remains constant - the anxiety that accompanies the college application process. Unfortunately, uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 are only exacerbating this stress. However, there are reasons to be hopeful!
How is COVID-19 affecting application requirements?
Colleges, like us, have been forced to develop plasticity in order to survive. As a result, institutions have reevaluated and adjusted their standards for admissions. Many colleges, at least temporarily, are going to the test-optional route. Test-optional is the policy in which colleges give students the option to submit their scores. There has been a movement towards test-optional in the last several years to promote diversity among student bodies. For teens that are excellent students but not necessarily the best test-takers, this is great news! However, test-optional is not the same as test-blind. Test-blind means that even if standardized test scores are submitted, they are not considered for evaluation in the application. A few schools use this policy, but this is not the standard. The majority of institutions allow students to submit their test scores in order to enhance their transcripts.
Are test-optional policies the same at each institution?
Colleges mandate their own individual test-optional policies; it is important that your teen thoroughly reviews these policies. FairTest has a current list of test-optional universities. Furthermore, NCAC offers a College Admissions Status Update page that lists individual institution’s plans for consideration of high school transcripts, test scores, decision dates, deposit dates, fall tuition, and registration plans.
Should my teen bother taking standardized tests if they are only applying to test-optional institutions?
Maybe. Colleges will evaluate what is presented to them in the application without a disadvantage if test scores are not part of the package. However, some colleges are still requiring test scores for scholarship purposes. Taking standardized tests is only recommended if it can be done safely. Students who are unable to test or unable to re-test due to test site closings should not stress.
Will my teen be penalized for the temporary pass/fail grading system?
Colleges recognize that for a large portion of schools, pass/fail replaced traditional grading during the spring of 2020. Students will not be penalized for this. More emphasis will be put on essays, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters. These are pieces of the application that the student has the most control over how they present themselves to admissions.
The good news.
Although COVID-19 is causing us to navigate the college application process a bit differently this year, don’t feel discouraged! Colleges are looking for reasons to admit students not deny. Building a balanced list of colleges that fit your student’s academic profile, social environment desires, financial parameters, and the student is genuinely interested in is the best way to ensure your student will have great options at the end of the process. Colleges are businesses, and they want your student! Like many businesses, they are suffering. In many ways, these changes might open up doors for your senior.