Wellesley education spotlight: college admissions in a time of contagion

Thank you to guest columnist Martha Collins of Admit Fit College Admissions Counseling for the following post:

In my first post, I reviewed changes to the senior college admissions experience as a result of the novel coronavirus. In this post, I review recent changes to college admissions for juniors.

Students and parents who were planning to visit universities in April will find that most universities have canceled on-campus information sessions and tours and replaced these with virtual events. If the pandemic passes in the weeks to come, universities may offer fall information sessions and tours, so do explore the option of visiting a college of interest on a Monday holiday in the fall. In the meantime, you can virtually tour more than 600 universities at YouVisit.

The perfect fit

To gain a better feel for personal fit with the students who could become your future classmates, reach out to friends and recent high school grads who attend or know someone who attends a school of interest. They may share an informal, less-polished take than the one you would hear during a traditional college tour.

And aspiring college students should be comforted that many of the nation’s most applied-to private and state universities do not document school visits or weigh applicant interest heavily in the admissions process. This is likely to be more so than usual this coming application year, given the circumstances. But don’t be afraid to contact your region’s admissions officer and ask directly about whether demonstrated interest is a factor, and how you might make your interest known.

There are many ways to show interest beyond attending a virtual information session. Make sure to open emails that have been sent to you from a target college, since most schools track these interactions. As stated before, contacting your region’s admissions officer directly with a pithy question that demonstrates you’ve familiarized yourself with the college counts, too. If you have a strong sense of what you might want to study, reach out to a professor in that subject area, again with a well-informed question.

As mentioned in my last post, universities are going to view applicant transcripts with a more sympathetic eye during the coming application season. Admissions officers are well aware that high schools across the country and around the world are modifying their curriculum to teach remotely and will take this into careful consideration when considering an applicant.

Changes during an unprecedented time

Standardized aptitude tests figure prominently in late junior year/early senior year college preparation. In light of the pandemic, the College Board has announced changes, including cancelation of the May 2 and June 6 SAT test dates. Makeup exams for the March 14 administration (scheduled for March 28) were previously canceled. Registered students will receive refunds for any canceled test dates.

Assuming the pandemic has subsided and it is safe to do so, the College Board will offer weekend SAT test dates every month, beginning in August. This includes the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, November 7, December 5, and a new September test date, to be announced. The CollegeBoard is working with testing locations to expand capacity for these test dates.

If you’ve already registered for the canceled June test or are a member of the class of 2021 and have not yet taken the SAT, you will have early access to registration. Learn more at the College Board.

Similarly, the April 4 national test date of the ACT was postponed to June 13, and all students who registered for the April 4 test date should have received an email to reschedule to either June 13 or a later test date. The next ACT national test dates are June 13 and July 18, at this writing.

These are times that test students’ souls

Beginning with the September 12 ACT test, students can choose between the traditional paper test or an online test (administered at a testing location.) The advantage of the online test is that scores may be available in as little as two days, which would expedite reporting for college admissions purposes. In addition, beginning with the September test, students who have previously taken a full ACT can opt to retake one or more sections, rather than the full test.

The ACT is now joining the CollegeBoard in offering students a “superscore” reporting option, where an average of a student’s highest scores across each section is reported to universities. But be advised: the ACT will supply at least one full composite score with each superscore, plus all the scores from the test events that are part of the superscore composite.

In response to the coronavirus epidemic and SAT/ACT test date cancelations, several colleges have announced they will be test-optional for the coming application year. For example, Northeastern University and Boston University will both be test-optional for Fall 2021 applicants, and Tufts University announced that it will be test-optional for the next three years.

A holistic college application, whether filed via the common or coalition application system, should include a description of your high school achievements, extracurriculars, and summer activities per year. Be assured that college admissions officials will understand if your spring athletic season, arts performances, or other extracurriculars were truncated or canceled. Both
application systems include a section where applicants can note special circumstances.

Realize, too, that nearly every other college applicant, across the country and around the world, is also coping with life changes as a result of COVID-19. You are not alone.

Admit Fit, Wellesley

Martha Collins is president of Admit Fit College Admissions Counseling.