High school students across the country have had their second semesters cut short due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Though every student has been impacted to some extent, juniors in particular are facing increased uncertainty about the college admissions process. I hope the following information and advice will ease some of your anxiety!
Looking for more COVID-19 student-impact information? Find it here.
Here are some updates about the most common standardized tests.As with anything else, I encourage you to talk to your teachers if you have questions about anything that is not covered below.
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• The May SAT and subject tests have been cancelled.
• The June SAT is still scheduled but will likely be cancelled or disrupted.
• If you were planning on taking an exam that got cancelled, you have an option of either rescheduling or getting a refund.
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• The ACT exam that was scheduled for April 14th has been rescheduled to June 13th.
• The July ACT exam is still in place.
• April registrants can either accept the rescheduled date or book a new date in the fall.
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• Exams that were scheduled for May have been canceled.
• Students will receive a diploma or course certificate based on their effort in class.
• The deadline for uploading school work is April 20th.
• Original AP exams have been canceled.
• New exams have been scheduled for May 11th through the 22nd.
• Makeup dates are scheduled for June 1st through the 5th.
• Students can’t just opt to take the exam in June because they need more time to prepare. You will need a valid reason that legitimately prohibits you from taking the exam in May.
• All exams are now online.
• Exams are 45 minutes in length.
• They include only free response questions (FRQs) and will only cover information taught in classes before March 10th.
• There will be a required login time on the day of the exam.
• Since these exams are open notes, the College Board (SAT) is likely to assess questions that force students to analyze and work through a problem rather than allowing them to search for an answer online. Therefore, you should definitely plan on studying!
• Scores will still be on a scale of 1 to 5.
• Scores will be released in late July.
With standardized exam dates being canceled across the nation, many juniors are losing the opportunity to take exams multiple times to improve their scores. For the class of 2021, standardized exam scores will likely be lower when compared to previous years. Colleges and universities are aware of the exam cancellations and the lost opportunities to improve scores.
To account for all the disruption, they will most likely decrease the weight that standardized test scores carry in the admissions process. That being said, if you are able to achieve a high score despite disruptions, you will have an advantage among other applicants.
Colleges will be particularly flexible on requirements like SAT subject tests. Hopefully, the College Board (SAT) and the ACT will administer the exams on new dates in the summer and the fall. However, there is a slight chance that no new dates will be offered due to the continuing spread of COVID-19.
That being said, if you have one available testing date and you are choosing between an opportunity to improve your SAT score or an opportunity to take SAT subject tests, I would strongly recommend you to prioritize the primary SAT or ACT. If your SAT or ACT score already meets the thresholds of the colleges you are applying to, then you should focus on SAT subject tests to boost your application even more.
For the 2020-21 application cycle, many colleges, including selective ones, may choose to move to test-optional admissions. This essentially means that applicants are not required to submit any standardized test scores. Traditionally, based on schools that are already test-optional under the status quo, students with a strong SAT or ACT score have an advantage over applicants who choose not to submit test scores. This proves that it is still a good idea for high school juniors to take standardized exams seriously because high scores can give them an edge over other applicants.
In regards to AP exams, due to the shorter version of the exams being administered, it is likely that 2020 AP exam scores will have less weight in the application process. However, many colleges will still be offering credit for the exams per usual. That being said, the number of AP classes you took and how well you were able to manage them will still hold the same weight as before. College admissions officers will still utilize this information as a reflection of how well you handle challenging coursework.
Unfortunately, colleges do use standardized exam scores to evaluate whether or not a student can handle the world load of a certain university. In the 2020-21 application cycle, because standardized test scores will not be seen as the strongest measurement, there is a chance selective-school admission will be more random than it was in the past.
Putting standardized exams to a side, juniors should still be focusing on maintaining a strong GPA, completing challenging coursework, and spending time on extracurriculars that they are passionate about. Because standardized tests will matter a little bit less, these factors may matter more!
The majority of students are now engaged in online learning. Many districts across the nation, including mine, are treating online learning as a way to continue education experiences but not as something that replaces the authentic school experience. Many students can attest to the fact that online learning is less rigorous because they have fewer assignments and more time to complete them.
Because of these factors, grades from the second semester of junior year will not count for very much in the admissions process. Instead, colleges looking to see growth in a student’s profile will be focusing on grades from the first semester of senior year instead. In order to maintain high grades their senior year, I strongly recommend juniors work on their college essays and supplements as much as they can over the summer so that they can focus on their school work in the fall.
Extracurricular activities, especially ones offered through schools and the ones that require face to face interaction, have screeched to a halt. Colleges are aware of these challenges. However, students who find ways to remain engaged despite the pandemic will stand out. So get creative (while continuing social distancing, of course)!
Most students tend to ask teachers they had during their junior year for recommendation letters. However, because junior year was cut almost by half, the time to build those relationships and trust has been decreased substantially. One way to overcome this is to continue to engage with your teachers by participating in online classes, asking questions when you have them, or reaching out through email.
Juniors tend to use their winter and spring breaks to visit colleges and go on tours. However, at this time, many colleges have closed their campuses and restricted visitors. But there are ways that students can continue to learn more about schools across the country:
• Talk to students you know who currently attend the college you are interested in.
• Look for formal information sessions online, register for them, and ask questions!
• Get an inside look by watching informal YouTube and Instagram videos.
• Look up virtual campus tours (a lot of schools have them)!
• Email the university with specific questions and give them the time to get back to you.
• Visit the college in the fall, if you have the opportunity to do so.
We have covered important updates for various standardized exams, how the exams will be factored into the admissions process, how college admissions officers will view academics, the importance of continuing to stay engaged, and ways to learn more about colleges. I hope you found all of this information helpful!