Are you a junior in high school right now and wondering how Covid-19 is going to affect your college chances in the fall? You’re definitely not alone! A few weeks ago, I attended a talk by Rick Clark, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Georgia Tech and these are the main things I learned.
1. Myth: If many current high school Seniors choose to defer college enrollment for Fall 2020 because of Covid-19 and start college in Fall 2021 instead, then Juniors will have a lower rate of admission for Fall 2021 due to current seniors taking their spots.
Truth: Colleges are very concerned about enrollment and are likely to have higher admissions rates than usual.
College is a business. And to run that business they need students. So it only makes sense that many universities are afraid they will not have enough students attending college in the Fall (or the coming years, depending on what happens). In fact, college enrollment from American students has been dropping for about a decade now. This is one of the reasons why US colleges have become so eager to recruit international students like the ones I worked with in China. But until borders reopen, that’s pretty much off the table.
But to be honest, this is their problem. Not yours. As an applicant, consider yourself to be in demand. Now, I’m not saying that you’re going to get into every school you apply to no matter what. Please, understand me correctly.
What I learned from Rick is that, because colleges are so afraid of not having enough students in the coming years, current high school juniors are likely to have far more acceptances than usual. Basically, colleges aren’t going to accept less students, they’ll accept more. Also, to combat financial loss, colleges are going to be recruiting more heavily. It’s likely that we’ll see colleges start recruiting closer to home due to travel restrictions.
2. Myth: Juniors won’t have to submit SAT or ACT scores because of test cancellations.
Truth: While many private colleges are going “test-optional” (meaning they will not require students to take the SAT or ACT tests for admission), it’s likely that many colleges, especially public colleges, will still require the test. But your test scores will not be the most important factor to get you admitted.
So what will colleges focus on instead? Admissions officers will give higher importance to your extracurricular activities, overall grades, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. But more than anything, they’ll want to see that you have strong extracurriculars. This is what they call the “holistic” applicant approach.
Many colleges have been using the holistic application approach for years. (I discuss this approach and how to master it in my book, The Outlier Effect), but more colleges will use the approach now due to standardized testing shortages and disparities. The College Board is trying to deal with these shortages by creating an online at-home test. But we’ll still have to see if that launches during Summer 2020.
The most important takeaway I learned is that colleges want to see that you used your Covid experience to the best of your abilities and created extracurricular activities for yourself and your community. To see how to make your own virtual extracurriculars, check out my article where I give tips on that.
3. Myth: Choosing the right college for you will be harder now because you can’t schedule college visits.
Truth: While your process in choosing a college may be different, many schools are replacing in-person visits with virtual tours so that you can see how awesome they are.
Many colleges around the country are holding virtual tours for interested applicants. Be sure to sign up for these sessions! Another way to learn about the school is to find current students on LinkedIn to talk to about their college experience. You can ask all the questions that you normally would while on a tour and get a sense of campus culture.
Another strategy Rick mentioned was for you to find the Instagram or Snapchat feeds of students at schools you’re considering. You can even message them to find out things they haven’t posted about, like — What are challenging aspects of being a student at their university?
Lastly, you can learn more information about a college through their official student-run school newspaper or magazine. What is considered newsworthy at this school? What do students like to focus on? What current students write about will give you a sense of the campus environment.