April 11th, 2020

Five Things High School Juniors Can Do To Apply For College During the  Coronavirus Lockdown

If you’re a high school junior who plans to attend college, you’re probably disappointed that COVID-19 is throwing off your college search plans. If you are like most students, you are worrying about how you’re going to submit a strong application that impresses colleges when you aren’t in school, you can’t participate in sports, clubs, jobs, or other activities, and you can’t take the ACT and SAT.
Your concerns are understandable. But remember all college applicants are in the same boat. Every college admissions counselor understands what’s happening right now. 
Still, it’s important to start preparing for what will be a very unusual college admissions season. There is plenty you can do to prepare while you’re social distancing.


1. Start to Build your College List
The first thing you should focus on is creating a list of schools that appeals to you. When building your college list, you need to really think about yourself and what you want in a college. When considering your preferences, be honest about what is important to you. You want a college that’s the right fit for you. Here are eight important things to consider when creating your college list:
    • Location type Do you want a college that is in an urban, suburban or rural setting?
    • Location What locations are you willing to consider? Think about the distance from home, weather, and possible opportunities in the area. In what areas will you feel most comfortable?
    • Cost  Will you receive any help paying for college? How much does the university cost?
    • Major What’s your intended major? Which colleges offer that subject as a major? If you don’t know exactly what you want to study, are there subjects that you are leaning towards?
    • Extracurricular activities Are there specific extracurricular activities that are important to you?
    • Athletics Do you want to be a college athlete and compete competitively for the college? What division will you consider? If you don’t want to participate competitively, do you want to play in a specific intramural sport?
    • Student population size Do you prefer a more intimate atmosphere or more anonymity? Would you enjoy a larger.  facilities, and more programs or small classes with more discussion-based education? Do you want to go to a college that is the size of your high school or the size of a city? Or, somewhere in the middle?
    • Other things you want or need What else is important to you in a college? A gym or fitness center? A strong career center? Whatever it is that is important to you, add it to the list.
You also need to make sure you are applying to three different types of schools; reach, match, and likely schools.
    • 4+ Match schools A match school is a college that you are likely to be admitted.
    • 1-3 Reach schools A reach school is one that you have a chance of being admitted, but it may be difficult. There is no rule that you must apply to a reach school, but if there is one that you really like, go for it! For highly selective schools (colleges with low acceptance rates), they should always be considered a reach school because even students with perfect grades and test scores might not be accepted.
    • 1-2 Likely schools A likely school is a college that you feel you have a very good chance of getting into and that you think you can afford to attend. Do not pick a likely school just to have one on your list. Instead, find a college you would be happy to attend.
If you are having a hard time determining what category a college is for you, request your college probabilities from University Connection – you will receive up to three schools for free. Our experts will sift through your information and provide you the most accurate probability modeling within three business days.
During your search, keep asking yourself questions about your goals and preferences. Your college list is most likely going to continue changing, and that is okay. Keep an open mind and remember that there are plenty of good college fits for every student and that you can be successful at many types of schools.


2. Connect with the colleges and universities you may want to attend
Since you can’t visit college campuses in person, you need to demonstrate your interest in other ways. Lots of colleges will look for signs of “demonstrated interest” when they evaluate your application. How can you do that when the entire country is locked down?
    • Follow colleges on social media. 
    • Explore college websites and application portals, and ask to be added to online and print mailing lists. 
    • Contact students who already attend that college
    • Email professors and ask about the courses they teach
    • Read their student newspapers online.
    • Check out their virtual tours.
    • When you get an email from a college or university you’re interested in, open it and click on any links. 
    • If you can, talk online with a current student or professor in the major you’re interested in. 
    • Join live-streamed events and virtual open houses.
All of this will help you show your interest, which is great, but it will also help you make smart choices about which schools are a good fit for you. Plus, you’ll be able to write a thoughtful answer when you respond to a supplemental essay question like, “Why this college?”
And if you have questions that aren’t answered in the college’s materials … don’t hesitate to call or email an admissions counselor. 
Remember, COVID-19 has thrown everyone into uncharted territory. Admissions counselors are just like the rest of us, many working from home and learning as they go, and they want to help you figure things out. Let them know if you need anything and give them a little extra time to get back to you. They’d love to hear from you!


3. Study for the SAT or ACT
If your test date was canceled or postponed, you scored some bonus practice time. SAT and ACT may both be offered online in the fall. You should aim to spend 15 to 30 minutes each day practicing for the test. You can use a free site like Khan Academy’s practice site. Twenty hours of practice on Khan Academy can boost your score by an average of 115 points. You can also find paid sites that have a more individual approach like TestRocker. TestRocker claims they can boost scores by 240 points. 
Some colleges are not requiring SAT and ACT test scores right now because of the coronavirus, but plenty of schools still are. To stay on top of test date information, visit the College Board (SAT) and ACT websites.


4.  Find creative ways to substitute for extracurricular activities.
So you can’t join the clubs, play the sports, or work the jobs you were planning on before social distancing trapped you at home. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do after your homework is finished. Shine up your college application by getting involved. Check out the International Business Internship Program which offers you an opportunity to improve small businesses in sub-Saharan Africa. This online internship program is free for high school students an is done through Skype calls with business owners and a development team online.


5. Front-Load the Common Application
Chances are good that at least some of the colleges you apply to in the fall will use the Common Application. You can complete several areas of that application right now. You cab focus primarily on demographics and background, so they aren’t difficult—but they do take time. 
You might as well get them out of the way now so that you don’t need to rush through them later. 
The Common App essay prompts have already been posted. Now is a great time to start brainstorming the best ideas for your college application essays.
Some Final Tips
Above all, try to stay healthy. Follow all the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Together we’ll get through the coronavirus pandemic eventually.