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  • Writer's pictureChris Tamis

What you do NOW matters . . .


Like every high school student, your world was turned upside down in early March with the closing of schools across the United States. For many, this cessation of academics seemed temporary and was met with some degree of initial euphoria. As the days, weeks and now, months drag on, high school students (in particular, juniors) began to realize the immediate impact cancelling classes was going to have on their upcoming college admissions preparation.

"Be productive." It's something we have all heard regarding how we spend our "down time" while quarantining at home. I think, the more important factor is to be productive in what matters. Staying in shape, cleaning out closets, zooming with friends and taking care of household chores are all important, but making sure you do something that will give you an edge in the college admissions process is key. Make no mistakes, admissions offices will look at what you did during this strange and unprecedented time. The standards like high school grades, letters of recommendation and AP scores will remain important admissions criteria. As discussed in previous blogs, standardized test scores, even if optional, will still be submitted by a large portion of applicants, so make sure you are studying for the next available SAT or ACT. The new area of interest will be what you did with your time during the lockdown? It is here that students who use their imagine and ingenuity will stand out in the competitive applicant pool.

  • Plan on taking the ACT or SAT. As I have previously stated, you will have several opportunities to take (or retake) these standardized tests. Prepare now as increased scores will make you stand out later.

  • Continue your college research using all resources available to you. All schools have vastly increased their online presence to assist you in determining if they match your criteria. Think outside the box and consider emailing colleges and even professors with important questions about their programs. Maintain a high level of demonstrated interest!

  • Volunteer during the crisis. Try to find some way to reach out and help others during the pandemic. Making masks, collecting food and supporting those in need will, most importantly help those who are suffering, but will also look impressive on your application. Remember, be creative and use your imagination, many segments of society are impacted that aren't being considered.

  • Maintain your high school grades and study for AP exams if applicable. Your end of junior year transcript is an extremely important part of your application package and will hold even more weight this application year.

  • Reach out to recommenders. Teachers want to write your letters of recondition now, not in September. You need at least 2 core subject teachers, so choose wisely and select teachers who really know you. Every college will list their criteria for recommendation letters on their web sites.

  • Continue participation with high school clubs. Maintain a connection to any high school club or organization you belonged to prior to this crisis. Many will still be conducting online meetings and setting up worthwhile activities. Don't just watch from the sidelines, look to take a leadership role.

  • Plan for your summer. The job you had every summer may not be available this year. Think well in advance as the job market will be limited and flooded with eager high school and college students looking to recoup lost earnings.

  • Take an online class. Now that you are accustomed to the online academic format, why not consider taking an online course or two over the summer. Many colleges have created online courses for high school students covering a wide variety of subjects, and the level and commitment vary. Some are free with only a few sessions and others are fee-based true courses that will provide college credit. Community colleges are also a very appealing option as their credits will transfer to just about every college. I will provide all clients with an updated list of options.

  • Stay positive. Nothing is going the way we all thought it would right now. You will apply to college . . . you will receive college acceptances . . . you will attend a college. Maintaining a degree of positivity and hopefulness for the future is something we all need to concentrate on.

The main take away is that you are not on vacation. Colleges will expect you to have done something to adapt to the changing admissions picture. Find something to make yourself stand out from others in the applicant pool. There is no typical student for any school. Every college wants a broad based, diverse and interesting freshman class. Most importantly, they are all looking for students who will add something positive to their campus. An important point to remember is that colleges do not want well rounded students, they want well rounded classes. Embrace your individuality! Whatever your talent is, give it your all!

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