University applications may look a bit different in 2021.
Planning for college can be an exciting time for families. Touring your dream school, shopping for your dorm and filling out applications are all milestones in your college preparation process. But, like many other things, the pandemic has changed the way students find their perfect university. No need to worry, certified educational planner, Kate Malczewski from College Connectors shares tips to help ensure students and parents are up to date on all things college related.
Not all change is bad change
The ACT and SAT have been used as common standardized college admission tests for many years. These tests have induced tremendous anxiety, and often a lot of expense, for many prospective college students. During the pandemic, some universities dropped standardized testing as an admission requirement, and since there had already been much debate about the fairness and reliability of these tests, these changes may be here to stay. Malczewski says, “What we’re hearing is that [standardized college admission tests like the ACT and SAT] are optional … I don’t think it’s a passing fad, I think COVID jumpstarted [this trend] which allowed schools to realize they can admit a successful class without a test score.”
Standing out from the pack
As admission requirements have shifted and colleges are looking more at a students’ overall body of work, a well-rounded application can help students stand out from the crowd. But every college is different. Depending on what a university’s mission is, there are different things looked for in applicants, from interviews, essays, recommendations and all those extra components of an application that are measured to holistically evaluate a student’s abilities. Look into what each prospective school requires and focus on those things for each application.
Don’t skip class just yet
Though colleges are looking more holistically at students, grades still play a key part in any application. There is a renewed interest in students’ overall grades to determine the kind of college student they will become, and by and large, transcripts, coursework grades and rigor are what schools evaluate to determine whether to admit a student. But applicants need not worry about the way COVID may have affected transcripts through many schools’ use of pass/fail grading or altered scheduling from hybrid and distance learning since virtually all students’ applications will reflect these changes and colleges are aware of these situations.
Making up for lost time
One of the biggest concerns for many students and parents has been the loss of activity time, volunteering and other extracurriculars many students faced due to the pandemic. But all college applicants are all in the same boat and should not worry about things that may have been missed out on. One approach might be reworking an application in light of COVID by demonstrating the ability to adapt well to change. Or, write about a hobby picked up during quarantine or a personal discovery during a unique time.
Finding the perfect match
Finding a school that best represents a student’s strengths will help them stand out from the rest. Malczewski’s final piece of advice is this, “Reflect on who you are as a student and what would be the best fit for you. Don’t try to fit into a specific school; instead look for a place where you know you can thrive for four years.”