Covid-19's Impact on High School Students
ICYMI, right now, every part of the world is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic in pretty big ways. To learn more about navigating the college admissions process in this time, Editorial Team member Victoria Chow chatted with two college counselors to get the scoop on Covid-19 and college applications, SAT and ACTs, and extracurriculars - to name a few.
VC: Most schools are going on credit/no credit grading schemes, and all after school clubs and sports have been cancelled. Some students are concerned about the lack of opportunities to differentiate themselves. Do you have any advice for these students?
Goodkin: One unexpected positive from the situation is that it’s forcing students to think outside of the box to create their own opportunities. Students can take free online courses from various colleges including Ivy schools, learn from documentaries, and watch TED talks. As an example, students applying for economic majors are encouraged to take independent economic classes. Pick a specific area and study it extensively. Students can reach out to college professors and undergraduate students to demonstrate interest. It is a great time to get writing and artwork published. Students can participate in online international discussion groups, start a blog or create their own podcast. Another key idea is figuring out how to pursue online volunteering opportunities and win scholarship opportunities. Scholarships are for anyone from a freshman to a senior.
Swoboda: One of the most important things to realize for students who are stressing over credit/no credit grades to stand out is that universities typically recalculate grades. Colleges will most likely rely on grades from previous years. Students should understand now that colleges have less transcript data to analyze. Now more than ever, colleges will start to look for more data points, especially from the AP and SAT 2 exams.
VC: Since sports have been cancelled for the rest of the school year and possibly into the summer, should student athletes make changes to their plans in terms of trying to get recruited?
Goodkin: Student athletes who were counting on this semester to prove to colleges they have what it takes should start to shift their thinking and they may need to go plan B. It’s hard to get around something as big as this, unless you’re sure you are recruitable. For some, this might mean accepting reality, but as a sophomore, you may still have time for your top choice.
Swoboda: Student athletes that are recruitable should not give up on their sport as everyone is in the same boat. After Covid-19, there will still be a demand for athletes. If a student is unlikely to be recruited, they should think about how much they’re giving up to play their sport. Students should recognize whether being recruited is realistic and they can use this time to reach out to college coaches. On collegiate sports’ websites, there is a form to fill out for both sophomores and juniors to place yourself on their radar. Students should register with the NCAA eligibility, talk with their coaches, and create a one page profile with a cover letter to send to coaches. It’s much easier to be recruited if you play a metric sport such as swimming where skill level is easily determined through statistics or personal records. For sports that are less quantifiable, (soccer, baseball, tennis, etc) aspiring athletes should provide a video of their skills so that colleges can see the athlete in a real game situation.
VC: What should high school juniors be doing now that SATs and ACTs are being cancelled?
Goodkin: A lot of colleges either are already test optional or are going test optional at least for this coming admissions cycle. Both the SAT and ACT are making it clear that there are a lot of options to take it in the fall when hopefully things will be back to normal. If not, both organizations have said they are starting to create at home digital versions of their tests. One way or another, there will be some way for juniors to take the SAT or ACT.
Swoboda: I suggest you celebrate! Although they’ve cancelled all the way through June, they will have more from August to December. Priority is being given to juniors who had their SATs or ACTs cancelled and have not yet taken the test. Unlike personal struggles that high school students face that are not easily understood by colleges, the coronavirus is understood by colleges. Students’ biggest concerns should be maintaining the balance between burnout and taking advantage of the extra time to study. Preparation shouldn’t be too vigorous and it should be well thought out and carefully paced. Right before the exam juniors can start to ramp up the pace again so their head is in the phase of test taking. One of the biggest benefits of tests being cancelled is that the number of test optional schools has increased. Many of these colleges are extending this optional testing period to 3 years. Colleges now have the opportunity to see the possible ramifications of becoming a test optional school.
VC; Since some colleges are not test optional, how should sophomores be preparing for standardized testing this summer?
Goodkin: Whether this means studying on your own, using review books, or tutors, sophomores should be preparing the same way they would be otherwise. Students have had a lot of success working one on one with tutors online, so I’m not at all worried about the sophomore standardized testing crowd. I think there will be plenty of ways for them to prepare.
Swoboda: There’s no change from previous years. I don’t really think it makes a difference.
VC: What else can students be doing over the summer?
Goodkin: There are still a lot of opportunities out there to build your resume. Students will have to be more creative and show more initiative than they have in the past. If students show the initiative to reach out to businesses and create opportunities for themselves, that’s going to be more impressive than if they had just participated in an existing opportunity. By putting together an interesting summer in light of all the restrictions, students can really end up in a stronger position.
Swoboda: I see this as an opportunity to set yourself apart. Students who are self-initiators- that’s going to show. There is an emphasis on personal growth, whether it be from learning how to code to something as simple as learning to cook. There is a wide selection of online classes referred to as MOOC where you can select most courses free of charge. I encourage students to do something that benefits the community. Students can still pursue volunteering activities and become involved with their community. A YouTube series called Some Good News and Arts on the Hill by the University of Virginia are two examples. For sports-oriented students, an interesting idea could be filming trickshot/skill videos or creating your own content for training videos such as a ten week training regime to provide to summer camps in the future. There’s also a demand for volunteers to fulfill basic needs, such as delivering groceries or running errands.
VC: Have any of your seniors made changes to their plans for college?
Goodkin: I actually haven’t really seen that yet but I think more of my students than usual are waiting to make their final decision.
Swoboda: None of my seniors have made any changes to their plan. One thing that might be interesting to note is that some colleges have reopened admissions due to the high number of students wanting to be closer to home. In one study, 35% of students said they would now like to be closer to home.
VC: Given that schools might not re-open in the fall and online classes will continue, do you think seniors should take online classes at less expensive community colleges instead?
Goodkin: It depends on the circumstance, but I would not advise going to a community college before attending the college of your choice if you have already been accepted. Especially for a private four year college, it would make it much harder to transfer back in.
Swoboda: If a student cannot afford college then this is a real option. However, it's too personal to make a blanket statement. That said, I would not recommend going to a community college before attending a four year college, given that you’ve been accepted.
VC: What are your thoughts on taking a gap year?
Goodkin: Some students are also considering taking a gap year instead of immediately heading back to college for half of their freshman year to be online. I love gap years at any point in time, and I think it makes a lot of sense right now as well given the current situation.
Swoboda: I think gap years are fantastic. They give a student the opportunity to mature and become more confident in themselves and their passions. More people will be asking for gap years now, which makes sense given the situation.
VC: Since some families' financial situations might be a little rough given the circumstances, how might the competition landscape change in the college application process?
Goodkin: As for how the competitive landscape on college decisions might change, private colleges without great financial aid will likely be easier to get into, as many families are currently dealing with unsure financial situations.
Swoboda: Regarding financial aid, there are two types of colleges. There are those that are need-aware, and those that are need-blind. It’s possible that students who can pay full fare have an advantage in private schools admissions over those who can’t. It may be exacerbated by this. More people will need assistance and this applies to waitlisted students for need-blind schools.
Susan Goodkin is a graduate of Harvard University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She helps students aiming for all kinds of colleges. She specializes in helping students get accepted to the most selective schools.
You can get in touch with Susan Goodkin at firstname.lastname@example.org,
@susangoodkin (Twitter) and @californialearningstrategiescenter (Facebook).
Eileen Swoboda earned a BS in biology from Purdue University and an MBA from UCLA. She has assisted dozens of students one-on-one from across the US, Europe and China with over applications, conducted workshops for and given presentations to both students and parents, and has visited and met with admissions offices at 110+ unique colleges nationwide in order to provide the best advice possible to students.
You can get in touch with Eileen Swoboda at email@example.com and on her website