College Admissions 2020: 5 Ways to Prep


By Natasha de Sherbinin, Director of College Advising A-List Education, New York

The COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we know it and created a significant amount of uncertainty around fall college admissions. High school juniors, however, can still focus on things within their control to ensure their preparation for applications come September. 

1. Continue to prep for exams as usual.

Be prepared, and keep your options open. While many colleges have recently announced that they are adopting test-optional policies, students should expect that a few colleges on their list will require testing. If you still need to take the ACT or SAT, make sure you sign up for the August test. The ACT and SAT have also announced that online testing will be available in the not-too-distant future. Therefore, students should continue to take practice tests and prep as usual. You can keep track of ACT updates here and SAT updates here

2.  Create a preliminary college list, and start to demonstrate interest.

As much as possible, put the current health crisis aside and make a list of colleges based on your preferences–perhaps seek the help of a college advisor–and begin to research those schools. Start to virtually demonstrate an interest in the colleges on your list: join their mailing lists, participate in their video conferences, and follow them on social media. Search on the college’s admission website for the admission representative for your area, and then send an email to them introducing yourself with well-thought-out questions about their school.

3. Stay the path and build upon your relationships.

Some high schools have decided to adopt pass/fail grading policies this spring, but this is not a time to coast. Colleges may not be able to factor this semester’s grades into your GPA, so they will need to look elsewhere for evidence of your academic success. Teacher recommendations will be more critical than ever before in this fall’s college application cycle. Your teachers can vouch for the student you would have been this spring without the disruption of COVID19. Continue to challenge yourself in your current classes, and seek out opportunities to go above and beyond. You may no longer see your teachers every day, so intentionally seek out other opportunities to connect with them.

4. Create a contingency plan for the summer.

We are all hoping to be together again this summer. However, we recommend that every high schooler creates a back-up plan in case they can’t pursue the summer activities they planned. If you intended to attend a pre-college summer program or have an internship, reach out to the organizer to see if there is a virtual alternative. If it is canceled, plan to do something similar to what you had planned. For example, if it was an academic course, find a comparable course online through your local community college, Coursera or EdX. If it was volunteering, see if you can manage a non-profit’s social media or write uplifting letters to the elderly.

5. Build a network of support.

While the decisions made behind the closed doors of an admissions office are always a bit mysterious to students, this year’s admissions process will be even more unpredictable than usual. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that many current seniors are choosing to defer their admissions offer this year. Consequently, there may be fewer seats for current juniors in the fall of 2021, making some universities even more selective than in past years. Reach out to an admissions expert who is continuously monitoring the rapidly changing college admissions landscape. College advisors can guide families through this tumultuous time and give students peace of mind. 

Focus on what you can control at this moment and use this time to get ahead in the college admissions process. Stay the course and remember: admissions counselors are humans! Colleges need students, so they will need to be flexible during this admissions cycle. 

Finally, we encourage you to check out these words of wisdom from college admission leaders:


If you want to know more about preparing for college in 2020, you can schedule a free 30 minute college admission consultation with Natasha de Sherbinin at A-List Education.

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