Panic is beginning to seize soon to be seniors as the new school year is approaching. They are not worried about whether learning will take place online or in school. They are not contemplating face masks and hand sanitizer. Their concern is, “Will I get into college?” Sure most students know they will get in somewhere, but for future class of 2021 graduates their fear is tangible. As they have watched the past five months unfold, they completed their junior year at home with pass/fail options or grades not truly reflective of their learning. Many may have only taken the SAT or ACT once, if they got to take it all. They are hearing snippets about the economy, the number of people unemployed, and watch their parents work from home wondering, “How will I pay for college if I get accepted?” In May, they heard 2020 graduates talk about taking a gap year and deferring to enroll in college until the fall of 2021 and they speculated, “Will there still be space for me?” They look over their college list again and again, weighing numbers…GPA, test scores, percent accepted, tuition.
What students in the class of 2021 may not be hearing enough is that colleges are strategizing to work with applicants. Colleges are looking for reasons to admit students, not to deny them. Many schools have gone test optional for the upcoming application year or are willing to work with students who are unable to submit SAT/ACT test scores. A more holistic approach will be taken when evaluating applications, meaning more weight will be placed on the student’s course work, grades, activities, essays, and letters of recommendation–it is no longer just a numbers game resting solely on test scores and GPA. Colleges will be asking, “How will this student contribute to our campus community?” More importantly, students need to be asking themselves, “Why am I applying to each of the colleges on my list? How will attending this school help me meet my educational goals and help me grow as a person?”
Now is the time for students to really spend time getting to know each college they plan to apply to and let the college get to know who they are. In doing this students are able to discover if the college is a good fit for them. With many colleges closed for tours, rising seniors need to start taking advantage of the opportunities colleges are making available for students to develop connections with campuses. Sign up for virtual tours, meetings with college admissions counselors, and follow colleges of interest on social media. A virtual relationship with the college is still a meaningful one in determining if the school is a good match for you. If colleges offer interviews, schedule one. Develop a list of questions to ask and be the interviewer. Find information about the college in places other than the school’s own website. Is the college one of the few schools offering a reduction in tuition because classes will be held online and not on campus? Look for details demonstrating whether the college values their students. Colleges need students just as much, if not more, than students need college. Re-evaluate your college list. Yes, your list should still have target, safety, and reach schools, but your list should consist of colleges that have demonstrated an interest in their students’ well-being during these uncertain times. These are the colleges that will have plenty of room for the graduates of 2021.