How To Continue Your College Admissions Plan From Home
Whether you are an underclassman or a senior, you’re likely wondering how COVID-19 will affect your college admissions cycle. Rather than fall behind and feel stress getting caught up in the fall, there are a few important actions students can implement right now to stay ahead of the college admissions game, no matter what age or grade.
The most passive and financially-sensible step students can take is to search for external scholarships.
Every student should start building a scholarship list and applying to local and national scholarships. For seniors: many external scholarships have deadlines in April and May and have seen no disruption or delay so far. This is your chance to make the most of your quarantine by earning additional funding for your educational goals. For juniors: There are quite a few scholarships available to your grade, but juniors and sophomores can prepare for success in senior year by creating a scholarship list in advance (and writing the essays early).
Seniors across the country have been anxiously waiting for college acceptances all spring and are now faced with delayed college decisions and canceled campus tours. To answer a frequent question: seniors can relax about the possibility of having their acceptances rescinded due to a dip in grades from moving classes online or to Pass/Fail. As a former admissions counselor, I can reassure you that rescinding offers is a rare occurrence and will not be happening on a wide scale for this huge adjustment happening around the world. Colleges will likely look at this semester’s grades with leniency, as admissions directors are more worried about their enrollment numbers being affected negatively in the fall.
With this in mind, seniors can do a number of things to stay active in their college admissions plan. If you have found yourself waitlisted for one of your top schools, now is the perfect time to send the school a Letter of Continued Interest, as they are likely seeing a dip in acceptances. Send this letter in an email if there is not a formal submission form in your student portal for that school. Check out this guide to writing the waitlist letter for ideas on content.
Your time spent at home can be maximized to help you make the most informed decision on choosing a college. Spend time on CampusReel and YouTube for virtual tours, and follow the schools you applied to on social media to catch any virtual tours they may release in the coming weeks. Check out the subreddits for your colleges to connect with current students to get an accurate picture of life on campus.
Beyond virtual visits, do your homework on your admitted colleges. Consider these factors in choosing a school:
- Does the city outside of campus offer internship opportunities in your field?
- How far away from home will you be? If there was a family emergency (or a virus outbreak!), could you make it home or would you be stranded? If campus is further away, are you okay with booking a flight for every holiday?
- Do you like the city that the college is in? Does the nightlife and food scene match your idea of college (which is vastly different for everyone)? If an internship led to a job offer, could you see yourself staying beyond college?
Lastly, you don’t technically have to step foot on campus to engage with a college. In addition to checking out campus virtually, you can also show colleges you are interested in them. Even though many colleges say that demonstrated interest and engagement doesn’t play a factor in admissions and every college varies in how they measure this engagement, the truth is that it certainly cannot hurt right now. With social distancing in place, more schools may begin tracking engagement. They track you by the email address you applied with, so start responding to their emails so it shows up in your campus profile, use your email login to attend any virtual event they are hosting whenever possible, and follow them on social media. We all have time on our hands, and this engagement can only help you get off the waitlist at this point.
The most common question I receive from sophomore and junior students is, “How do I continue building an Activities resume for college when most extracurricular competitions and events have been canceled for the spring and summer?” This issue is at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now, as carefully-laid spring plans have disappeared into thin air. Thankfully, there are numerous actions these students can take to minimize the impact this quarantine will have on their extracurriculars. Some competitions and contests are looking to move online, but while you wait for them to sort out this step, there are other ways you can take action.
Now is the time to explore ways to add activities to your resume that can be virtual. Reach out to local nonprofits to see if you can help them coordinate volunteers (virtually) or build them a new website/social media platform in this downtime. Look into an online internship, or self-publish a book on Amazon. Reach out to local news stations and offer to write a blog from a student’s perspective on classes moving online during this quarantine so you can get published. See if there are any online college classes you can take right now to boost your academic resume as well.
Finally, start looking at the Common App essays and supplemental essays in advance to write outlines and then begin to write them. The Common App essay prompts will remain the same for 2020-2021. Take this time to read sample essays to see how you would like to format your Common App essay. Working ahead like this only saves you time in the long run. Here is a free e-book that gives you more advice on essays.
A Prepared Fall Semester
No matter which grade you are in, searching for scholarships and taking virtual visits are where everyone should be spending their time right now. Underclassmen can use this time to get ahead in the admissions game, and seniors can use this downtime to reflect on making the best college choice for their future. Either way, maximizing this time during social distancing can start your plans for this fall off on the right foot.