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- Consider registering to take the ACT or SAT (if you didn’t do so as a junior). The Coronavirus pandemic made the testing world different and some would argue a bit more confusing this college admissions season. While most colleges before 2020 required standardized test scores, some have adopted a test-optional stance in the recent months. U.S. News and World Report mentions “Due to the academic upheaval provoked by the novel coronavirus, an unprecedented number of universities have abandoned their testing requirements.” This year it’s important to check which tests (if any) the colleges you’re planning on applying to require, and to register accordingly. You don’t want to apply to a school without taking the required exams, as some merit scholarships are based upon test scores. Be sure to check with admissions reps at the colleges you’re interested in to see if they’ve modified the need for ACT or SAT scores for their merit scholarship system. When choosing the schools to submit your scores to consider if submitting your scores will help or hurt your college application for any university with test-optional polices. For instance, Inside Higher Ed reports that Purdue University, now test optional, recommends spring, summer and fall 2021 students take tests. However, Purdue officials also understand that test cancellations due COVID-19 safety concerns could impact applications and test taking circumstances. Higher standardized test flexibility may influence students to wait to see what your scores are before submitting. Once you get your test results in, if you find you’ve scored pretty high, you may consider submitting your scores the next time you test. Remember some colleges require test scores for their university-specific scholarships; it doesn't hurt to do your research here. Then, keep studying until test day (don’t burn yourself out, though) to ensure you’re as prepared as possible. You may consider using Khan Academy to practice and prepare for your next College Board (AKA: ACT) test. The Princeton Review also offers online test prep and short boot camps to boost your confidence and your SAT score. But remember, October is the last time to sit for the SAT and ACT before the Early Action deadlines, and many students choose to take these exams for a final improvement on their scores, which may cushion applications.
- Begin a college admissions process calendar. On your calendar, you can keep track of everything regarding the college admissions process, from standardized testing dates and college interviews to scholarship deadlines. At this point, you can look up dates that have already been set for the fall semester. Start by looking up standardized testing dates, if you’re planning on taking exams. Make sure to note registration deadlines and actual test dates on your calendar. Also, keep in mind that there are also deadlines to send in registration and test fees! Consider your safety. Would you feel more at ease taking your standardized test in an online format? If so, test this way. You’d be surprised at how stress can lower your scores! If you know any colleges you will absolutely be apply to, look up the college application deadline dates for those particular schools. You can usually find them listed on their website. If your list of colleges are now test-optional schools, consider talking with your high school counselor to get their take on if you should test. They may have connections with a college admissions team that can offer you solid advice. Continue adding to your calendar throughout the fall, as the college admissions process progresses – there will certainly be a lot more to add! If you’re not on the email lists for the colleges you’re interested in, reach out to an admissions officer. Most colleges are relying heavily on communicating via email, as things are changing quickly, and processes and modifications are likely this year.
- Make sure you’re on the right track to fulfill graduation and college admission requirements. Meet with your counselor to ensure that all courses you are taking will meet both your high school’s graduation requirements as well as college admission requirements. Ask if he or she knows any college students you could talk to. Some high schools offer a college admissions mentor program with the opportunity to talk and ask college freshmen questions. If you're considering Early Action or Early Decision options, check in with your admissions officer to be sure you're on task to have everything accomplished when necessary. Most Early Action and Early Decision deadlines occur in November.
- Start narrowing down your college choice list. Your list should consist of the following three categories: 1. “Safety” schools – Schools that you absolutely know you’ll gain admission to, based on the admission requirements. At these schools, you’ll likely be towards the top of your class ranking.
- Continue to apply for scholarships. Scholarships are a form of financial aid. Whether this is on your checklist or not, it should always be on your mind. Because the more you get into the habit of applying, the more scholarships you’ll apply for. And, the more scholarships you apply for, the better your odds are of winning. Do yourself (and your future bank account) a favor and never stop applying. Start by applying for this list of Scholarships for The Class of 2021. You'll definitely qualify for these!
2. “Realistic” schools – Schools you’ll most likely gain admission to, based on the admission requirements, and will most likely end up attending. At these schools, you will most likely fall somewhere in the middle of your class ranking.
3. “Reach” schools – Schools you’d like to apply to and would be happy to get into, but are unsure that you will be accepted to, based on the admission requirements. At these schools, you’ll most likely fall into the bottom tier of the class ranking.