3 College Admissions Steps for Rising Seniors in the Coronavirus Era

COVID-19 has thrown this year’s college application process into disarray, leaving many rising high school seniors wondering what they should do next. With several unforeseen changes to the college admissions process, previous to-do lists may now feel obsolete. If you’re a rising senior who plans to apply to college this fall, consider doing these three things:

— Investigate how your top-choice colleges have altered their ACT and SAT policies.

— If applicable, inquire about how your top-choice schools now view AP and IB scores.

— Resist the urge to delay preparation this summer “until things are clearer.”

Investigate How Your Top-Choice Colleges Have Altered Their ACT and SAT Policies

An increasing number of colleges and universities, including some of the country’s most prestigious institutions, are modifying their standardized testing policies in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

[Read: How the Coronavirus Is Pushing Colleges to Go Test-Optional.]

For instance, Cornell University has made the ACT and SAT optional components of its 2020-2021 application cycle. These changes, according to school officials, are meant to maintain fair admissions standards for students facing “economic and personal disruptions” caused by COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Other renowned institutions have followed suit with a “test optional” policy, including the University of California system and the University of Pennsylvania. But not all schools are adopting this new procedure.

As a rising high school senior, your first order of business is to determine whether your prospective colleges and universities are modifying their ACT/SAT requirement. A quick online search should provide the answer. Check each school’s official website rather than third-party websites that could have inaccurate or outdated information. In the unlikely situation that you cannot find an answer online, contact your schools directly by telephone or email.

[Read: How to Prep for SAT, ACT Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak.]

If the submission of standardized test scores has been made optional at all your schools, you will then have to consider whether to abandon or continue with your test prep efforts — a decision that should be weighed carefully.

If Applicable, Inquire About How Your Top-Choice Schools Now View AP and IB Scores

The International Baccalaureate program and The College Board — which administers AP courses and exams as well as the SAT — have also had to make some difficult decisions in the wake of coronavirus. Both organizations altered their exam policies for 2020: The IB canceled its end-of-year tests and The College Board offered abridged versions of its AP exams, which students took from home.

Despite the cancellation of IB end-of-year assessments, the IB is still conferring final course grades and diplomas. This year, the IB is using an algorithm to help determine each student’s final grade.

These significant changes to AP and IB testing procedures are reportedly influencing the way some schools evaluate AP and IB scores. For instance, some academic departments at Princeton University will require incoming students to take placement tests in order to assess their subject matter knowledge in certain areas, even if they have earned a top score on the respective 2020 AP exam.

[READ: IB vs. AP: Discover the Differences.]

The next step, then, is to investigate how your prospective colleges and universities are dealing with modified AP and IB exam procedures. Wherever applicable, consider how these changes might affect the course of your summer; for instance, whether additional test prep may be necessary.

Resist the Urge to Delay Preparation This Summer ‘Until Things Are Clearer’

Procrastination is always a temptation when it comes to tedious to-do lists. However, it may be an even more appealing option now that the COVID-19 pandemic has left so much in limbo.

Despite the uncertainty of the times, many schools are hoping to operate in 2021 as they did before the pandemic struck. Delaying your preparation could work against you for two reasons. First, “things” on the personal front may not be clearer for a while. Second, you may run out of time to get everything done this fall, especially if your top-choice schools opt not to move their application deadlines.

You can fight the urge to delay your admissions preparation several ways. First, set deadlines for yourself and keep them in a place where you will see them often, such as on your phone or bathroom mirror. Second, hold yourself accountable by involving friends or family members who can check in with you about your progress.

Finally, reward yourself for achieving milestones. For example, you could treat yourself to something you have been wanting once you accomplish the first two tasks on this list.

More from U.S. News

How the Coronavirus Affects College Admissions

Why High School Senior Year Matters for College Financial Aid

A Complete Guide to the College Application Process

3 College Admissions Steps for Rising Seniors in the Coronavirus Era originally appeared on usnews.com

Correction 06/22/20: A previous version of this article included an inaccurate example of a school that has not adjusted its standardized testing policy.

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