The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted learners at all stages of their academic journey, and while the 2020-2021 school year has certainly left many college-bound students feeling that they have lost valuable time in pursuit of college preparation, there’s still a lot that they can do virtually to make progress on their college prep goals.
In fact, thanks to digital technology, many major college readiness milestones can now be achieved from the comfort of your living room. Students are participating in tutoring sessions over Zoom, attending virtual college tours, and getting involved in volunteer activities through online platforms. As a result, students at every stage of their college admissions journey can feel confident that they are making the progress needed to set themselves up for success.
If you’re preparing for the college admissions process as a 9th, 10th, or 11th grader, there are several steps you can take now to make the most of your virtual preparation. So if you’ve hit “pause” on your college prep while waiting to see what happens next, remember that it’s important to stay on track with your academic and personal goals and take advantage of any virtual opportunities that come your way.
Creating Your List of Best-Fit Schools
One of the most important parts of the college application process is creating your balanced list of best-fit schools. Every student will have different needs, priorities, and preferences throughout the college search process, so taking your time and reflecting on your own personal criteria is essential. Because there are thousands of colleges in the US alone, we recommend that students begin searching for their best-fit colleges as early as 9th and 10th grade. Researching colleges online is an excellent starting point. Look up some colleges you’re familiar with and learn more about their academics, size, location, campus environment, and more. What aspects do you like? What gets you excited about that school? Once you have an idea of your preferences, search for schools with similar qualities. Even grab a physical book like Fiske Guide to Colleges or Colleges that Change Lives. Every school is different and you need to know the ins and outs of each option in order to make an informed decision.
While traditional campus tours may be on hold for the time being, students can still have a virtual visit experience at their best-fit colleges. There are several options for students who are interested in virtual visits, including visiting schools directly through their website and attending virtual college fairs. Students can also sign up for virtual tours, which are usually led by current college students, and virtual information sessions, normally hosted by an admissions officer.
Preparing for the SAT/ACT
Although many colleges have transitioned to test-optional admissions policies for this admissions cycle – not every school will adopt this policy permanently. Because of this, it’s still important for students to stay on track with their SAT/ACT prep so that when it comes time to apply, if schools on their balanced college list requires test scores they’ll be prepared. Also, test-optional doesn’t mean test blind. Just because applicants may not be required to submit scores, that doesn’t mean that a strong SAT/ACT performance won’t boost your admissions odds.
Consequently, we recommend that high school students begin their test preparation process by their sophomore year. Start by taking several full-length practice tests for both the SAT and ACT to determine which exam you wish to focus on. After this, there are many options for students who wish to prepare for the SAT or ACT virtually. Devise a study strategy that aligns with your needs and goals, whether that’s utilizing free resources such as those on Khan Academy or working one-on-one with an expert tutor.
Taking Your Extracurricular Commitment to the Next Level
It’s important to stay involved in the interests and causes that you are passionate about, even if some traditional activities like sports teams are currently on hold. Take time to reflect on the activities and commitments you enjoy most and start brainstorming new ways to get involved. For example, students who love music may wish to launch their own virtual concert series while those with a passion for STEM can seek out virtual tutoring opportunities for younger students. College admissions officers understand that it may not be possible to participate in extracurricular activities in the same way that you did in years past. However, students who get creative and deepen their expertise despite these disruptions are likely to stand out for all of the right reasons. If you’re interested in starting an independent project, or finding a way to make your current activities virtual, our IvyWise Mentorship can help you stay engaged even while you’re at home.
Become an Expert on the College Application Process
The college application process is multi-faceted and always evolving, so it’s best to learn as much as possible to prepare for the journey ahead. Take advantage of any additional down-time you may have to read up on how the college admissions works, the trends and changes upcoming applicants should have on their radar, and what you can do now to set yourself up for success down the line. There are plenty of great resources for students who are eager to learn more about college admissions and gain answers to their pressing questions.
In addition to keeping tabs on news and updates from the schools you are interested in, check out our KnowledgeBase for in-depth articles on specialty topics such as writing personal statements and the athletic recruitment process. We’ve also launched a new podcast series, Just Admit It, which offers the latest college admissions news and advice in 30 minutes or less from the people who were in the room where it all happens. IvyWise expert counselors are also hosting monthly IvyWise Live webinars to provide families with insight into the college admissions process.
At IvyWise, we work with students during every step of their college admissions process to help them make the most of their journey and feel confident throughout their experience. We have worked with students virtually for decades, so we are experts not only in college admissions but also in utilizing technology to deliver the best college admissions consulting in the world. Contact us today for more information on how IvyWise can provide you with college counseling and test preparation no matter where you are in the college prep process.