Wednesday, April 15, 2020

College Planning Concerns & COVD-19

For many of us, the Coronavirus pandemic is the first time we’ve ever had to face a situation that is truly beyond our control. If you’re a junior who’s planning to apply to college in the fall, it is no doubt heightening the sense of stress and anxiety around college admissions that you were already experiencing. The timing could absolutely not be worse for you. While there is nothing beyond practical safety measures that we can do to manage the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, having information about what you can (and can’t) do to keep your college process on track might give you some peace of mind.

The Most Important Thing to Know

It’s scary to accept, but you are powerless to control the ways our current situation will affect college admissions in the fall. The cold, hard truth is that we simply don’t know what impact it will have on things like application deadlines, the admit rates of colleges, or how things like spring semester grades and SAT/ACT scores will be used in evaluating applications. In many cases, the colleges themselves are still answering these questions. Don’t create extra stress for yourself by trying to find answers where there are as yet none to be had.

The good news is that colleges understand what you’re going through. They will not hold you accountable for things that you can do nothing about. What does this mean for you?

Spring Semester Grades

Different school districts are taking different approaches to instruction and grading for spring semester. Some schools are doing online instruction while others are not. Some are continuing to give letter grades, while others are grading pass/fail. Colleges understand this. They are working to figure out how to factor this into the admissions process.

Whatever your school is doing, continue to work hard and earn the best possible grades. This is one thing that you can control, so make the most of it!

SAT/ACT Testing

Several colleges have dropped or modified their testing requirements for the class of 2021, including the University of California system and some top tier universities like MIT (which has dropped its subject test requirement). It seems likely that more will follow suit.

Even before the pandemic, many colleges were “test-optional,” which means scores would be considered if submitted but weren’t required. You can find a list of these schools here:

The College Board and the ACT have plans so students can make up tests that were cancelled. You can find updates here:




This is an unprecedented time, and there are many things we can't answer right now. But it will pass, and you will go to college in 2021. The most important thing you can do right now is take care of your physical and mental health, so that when we emerge from this challenging time, you're ready to resume your journey to college.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Smart Ways to “Visit” Colleges Without Leaving Home

Visiting campuses is a great way to learn about colleges and get a real sense of whether they are a fit for your goals and needs. But sometimes, costs, time constraints, or unexpected obstacles (like a global pandemic) can make going to colleges in person impractical or even impossible. Luckily, there are still lots of ways you can check out colleges without even leaving your couch. 

College Websites

This seems super obvious, but people often overlook the wealth of information that can be found on a college's website. If you take the time to delve beyond the landing page, you can learn about their history, educational approach, the majors they offer, the clubs and other activities that are popular on campus, and even the layouts of the various dorms. There are lots of pictures, and often virtual tours, not just of the campus itself, but possibly even academic departments. Colleges often put a lot of time and money into their websites because they are the public face of their school and offer visitors a one-stop shop for comprehensive information. Give them a look.

Social Media

It's no surprise that colleges take advantage of young people's preferred mode of communication. Most colleges have at least one YouTube channel full of videos, and you may also find channels for specific departments, activities and interests. Through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and tumblr, you can get all sorts of insights (the UC Berkeley bathroom graffiti tumblr is a must see!) that really bring a college to life.

Virtual Tours

They're not a perfect substitute for actually strolling around a campus, but you can still get a good sense of the surroundings and vibe of a campus through a virtual tour, especially if it's one that's hosted by a tour guide and has been filmed when classes are in session.

Campus Reel

I think this company is so valuable that it deserves its own spot on the list. CampusReel offers student-generated videos from over 300 colleges. They're designed to be "authentic and honest," provide a "lens into campus life," and enable you to "explore different perspectives." Plus, the site is free and easy to navigate and the videos are casual and fun -- they're like having an actual student who has no agenda show you around campus. Imagine having a friend at every college you're considering reach out to give you an enthusiastic personal tour; that's CampusReel.

These alternatives may not have the glamour of hopping on a plane or taking a college tour road trip, but they're still valuable ways to learn about possible colleges without investing a lot of time and money. And with so many campuses currently closed, these might be our only "visiting" options for some time to come. Make the most of them, and have fun exploring!