The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably changed the way schools function. As school districts transition to online instruction, teachers and students alike are adjusting their schedules, their methods, and their expectations. 

In response, the college admissions landscape is also making adjustments. A number of colleges have delayed deposit deadlines so seniors have more time to decide where to enroll next fall. Due to the postponements and cancellations of standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, more colleges are electing to conduct Test Optional admissions next year. In lieu of campus visits, colleges are changing the way they attract applicants, such as building up their virtual tour options and reaching out to prospective students in new ways. For example, we at Galin Education will be hosting three different college panels in the coming weeks with schools all over the country.

In this atmosphere of change, uncertainty, and relative standstill, we don’t want our students to lose momentum. There are many ways students — particularly juniors — can remain productive and build themselves an enriching educational experience that will prepare them for college. At the end of social distancing (whenever that happens), what do you want to have accomplished?

Coursework and Grades

With many high schools turning to Pass/Fail grades, it will be hard to distinguish the kids who really cared about school versus those who only did it for the grades. If your grades were on an upward trend or if you are the type of kid who always wants to learn more and do well in school, regardless of the grade, keep up that effort. You can take screenshots of your current (and perhaps final) grades showing where you actually landed in the course, even though the transcript says “P.” This will be a way to distinguish yourself from others. Additionally, when school returns back to normal, you won’t have to play catchup; you’ll have the skills and knowledge necessary to continue progressing through your studies unimpeded. 

AP Tests

Take APs seriously. Although the tests will be shorter (45 minutes each), you’ll probably need to know the content even better to be able to quickly recall information and ideas to put into FRQs and other short answers. Since schools may not have grades to report from this semester, these tests become a great marker of how much you learned and how you can apply it in stressful conditions. And for seniors who have already been admitted, don’t forget that you can still earn credit for APs (if your college accepts them). Take these tests seriously or run the risk of not earning thousands of dollars of credits in these uncertain times. If you are interested in preparing for these exams with the help of a tutor, email us at info@galined.com and we’ll set you up right away

SAT Subject Tests

Like the AP Tests, SAT Subject Tests will be another way students can prove that they stayed dedicated to their studies despite the changes to their school schedules. Some colleges require students to take SAT Subject Tests anyway, so it could provide multiple uses in your applications. 

Extracurricular Activities and Enrichment Opportunities

While school districts are obligated to make sure classes are still conducted virtually, extracurricular activities have been largely dismissed, left by the wayside, or officially cancelled. Though it may be difficult or impossible to participate in extracurricular activities in the way that you have in the past, there may be opportunities to keep clubs productive even in this new environment. For some clubs, it might just mean organizing meetings via online video services. For other extracurricular activities dependent on in-person collaboration, it likely means adapting the goals and mission of the organization to meet the present moment. Though your drama club may not be able to put on your annual spring production, maybe you can start a playwriting group with those same peers. Though your spring baseball season may have been cancelled, perhaps your lineup can collaborate on a fundraiser to support a local food shelf. 

In addition to keeping your current extracurricular activities going, this is also a time to seek other enrichment opportunities. MIT OpenCourseWare has put together a list of courses appropriate for high school students, and edX provides access to 2500+ online courses from 140 institutions with opportunities to earn certificates to prove successful completion of coursework. Colleges know that many students have more free time than ever, so showing them that you decided to use that extra time to explore other academic opportunities will impress.

Additional Responsibilities and New Initiatives

Now that many are stuck at home, family dynamics are changing. Perhaps this means you have to take on more responsibilities. Keep notes of the ways you are spending your time away from school helping out your family.  Things like helping take care of younger siblings while parents are working, cooking meals for the family, running errands for your grandparents, etc., are all things that “count” as activities in the college admissions process, and can also demonstrate your responsibility, dependability, and maturity.  

Furthermore, this may be an opportunity to start something new that could benefit you, your family, or the community around you. If you need help brainstorming some ideas, think through answers to these questions below:

  • Can you identify a need in the community related to COVID-19? How might you do something to address it either virtually or from the appropriate, safe distance?
  • Do you have neighbors in the high-risk category who could use some assistance with shopping for groceries and other necessities, learning to connect with their family and friends using virtual platforms, or performing yard work during this time? 
  • Are there students at your school who could use some online tutoring help for homework assignments, tests, and upcoming AP and final exams? 
  • Is there anything you could do to help out your teachers as they transition to online instruction? 
  • Any ideas for putting your creative talents and skills to good use? If you’re a musician, can you try composing and recording new songs? If you’re a gifted dancer, can you put together a YouTube channel to teach choreographed routines to your favorite songs? If you’re a gifted writer, can you start a writing club with your friends? If you’re a painter, can you use the extra time to learn a new brush technique?
  • What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn but felt you never had the time? What video tutorials on Skillshare or Youtube can you find to learn this new cool skill?
  • What are life skills that you feel you ought to learn? Could a parent walk you through how to change a tire on a car, perform an oil change, or cook your favorite meal?

Connecting with Colleges

Now is a great time to reach out to your College Admissions Counselor and ask for a call/video conversation. This is an ideal way to speak to your candidacy as an applicant and also showcase your ingenuity and determination to connect with these colleges. Colleges are still open for business but have to find new ways to engage with current and prospective students. Initiating a conversation with a stranger is never easy but there are limited ways to interact with colleges and universities. The importance of expressing your interest and speaking to your candidacy is and will remain, a critically important part of the college search and application process. 

College Applications

With the extra time, you might want to get a headstart on college applications. There are many tasks that need to be done before you apply that can be done today: filling out the Common App, reaching out to teachers for recommendations, and putting together a resume are good first steps. For those eager to start writing college application essays, Galin Education has Essay Coaches on-hand eager to help students finish these tasks. Wouldn’t it be nice to enter the summer months knowing you have a Personal Statement and a few application essays already finished?

Additionally, though you may not be able to visit campuses in person, you can use our Galin Guide to Virtual Visits page to start researching your prospective schools. We also recommend looking through this spreadsheet, which lists nearly 1000 schools and the different ways that you can research them from the safety and comfort of your own home.