Tips For Applying To College During The Pandemic

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SAT test preparation books sit on a shelf at a Barnes and Noble. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
SAT test preparation books sit on a shelf at a Barnes and Noble. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Colleges are deciding whether and how to bring students back to campus this fall. Incoming freshmen will have a very different college experience this year, and there's a lot of uncertainty for high school students looking ahead at applying next year.

College counselor Lisa Micele discusses some of the challenges — from whether or not to take the SAT to how colleges are adjusting financial aid and other offerings. She's the director of college counseling at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School in Urbana, Illinois.

Class Of 2021: 7 Tips For Summer

By Lisa Micele

1. Get organized: Create a tool, or search for one online, to track information and admissions policies for every college you are exploring. In addition to tracking deadlines, required materials and testing policies, don't forget to track information on merit aid scholarship timelines and honors programs.

2. Start your roll-over account with the Common Application: Completing the Profile, Family, Education and Activities section this summer will make you feel more "in control" during these stressful times.

3. Explore essay prompts and self-reflection activities: Knowing yourself is the first step to finding your stories to share with admissions officers. Why do you want to go to college? What do you value? What are your interests? How have you evidenced integrity, care for others, a collaborative spirit and curiosity? What brings you joy? How have you grown? Failed forward? Write, reflect and write some more!

4. Think about potential teacher recommendations: You may need one to two academic teachers from your high school to write a letter of recommendation for you. Do some self-evaluation on this front too. Think about these things: How have you grown, challenged yourself and faced obstacles in their class? Share your thoughts with your teacher(s). Feel free to share a favorite memory, project or paper you wrote in their class too. (Most teachers expect to connect with you about letters of recommendation in early September. Follow directives from your high school.)

5. Test prep or no test prep?: This requires you to know the testing policies of each school on your exploratory list. Many colleges have gone test optional. Do you need these tests? Do colleges on your list have a definitive answer for you? Now is the time to ask schools directly, read their admissions website and call them. Don't forget to ask them about potential testing expectations for any merit aid or honors program opportunities on campus as well.

6. Summer is your time to broaden your skills, try something new and reclaim your joy: Just because your organized activities may be canceled, summer is still here. Embrace your gift of time and independence. My hope is that you will take time to finish this statement: "The challenge of living through COVID-19 has provided me with a new opportunity to..." Ask yourself: What have you realized? What did you give up? What have you started doing? Remember that you create your opportunities. Seize the summer!

7. Practice gratitude: People who are grateful are likely to be happier. Research shows that gratitude helps people to feel more positive emotions and deal with adversity. Daily gratitude practice can also lead to better sleep. During this time of unprecedented uncertainty, I hope you take a moment each day to slow down and reflect on all the things you are grateful for.

This segment aired on July 6, 2020.



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