College admissions can be a stressful process even in the best of times. So how might admissions be affected by this unprecedented world situation, and what can you do during this period at home?
For starters, it’s a good idea to maintain healthy habits — practices that, ideally, you were already following even before this pandemic. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat well, set a study schedule, avoid procrastination, and find ways to manage stress. This can be a great opportunity to build in or refine habits that will lead to success once you’re back in school.
On that note, make sure you’re keeping up with any assignments through your school’s remote teaching. Even if your grade is “safe,” it’s important that you’re not falling behind or missing out on key concepts that could affect your success in future classes. If your school’s online education isn’t the most effective (especially now while the kinks are still being worked out), you may want to seek out other resources such as Khan Academy, online lectures, or remote tutoring to supplement any gaps in your learning.
It’s important to remember that while colleges will make some (temporary) changes in light of this crisis, the admissions process itself won’t become any less selective. Some schools may put less pressure on this term’s grades or make the SAT optional for current juniors. But they will still have only the same limited number of spaces to offer students. In other words, getting into selective colleges won’t become any “easier.” In fact, if scores and grades become harder for schools to rely on in this moment, that will only put even more pressure on other aspects of your application such as your outside commitments, essays, and interviews.
If you find that you have more time on your hands, this might be a good opportunity to acquire new skills: anything from learning a foreign language to developing your artistic or musical talents or learning how to code. Find something you enjoy that you may be able to build on down the road. (Again, there are a lot of great resources available online — many of which are completely free!) If possible, try to find ways to maintain some of the commitments you had before the crisis, like holding virtual club meetings through programs like Skype or Zoom.
Think of ways to use your talents to help people during this lockdown. If you play music, you could host a virtual concert to raise people’s spirits. You might offer music lessons online. You could also create peer resources or provide instruction for students who are struggling to adjust to their remote learning. More tech savvy students could refurbish computers and other much-needed technology to donate to lower income schools shifting to distance learning, or offer to troubleshoot for families who have to adapt to new software and apps. Essentially, any ways in which you’re helping people and addressing real challenges is a great way to spend this time.
Don’t be surprised if colleges add a question on their applications specific to the pandemic. It could be a more perfunctory question, where they ask you to list how you spent your time during this period of social distancing. But some colleges may decide to have students reflect in a more holistic way on the role that your education might play in addressing some of the global, complex challenges facing the world.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a clear sense of when (and how) this pandemic will end. So until we get more clarity, it’s a good idea to continue to pursue the summer programs, internships, and research opportunities that appealed to you in the event that life resumes more-or-less back to normal in the next month or two. But just in case, you’ll want to have a backup plan in the event that some of these programs are forced to get postponed or canceled.
Ultimately, colleges will continue to have to find ways to differentiate the thousands of highly qualified applicants they receive each year. And they will be applying the same criteria that they used before the pandemic: identifying students who took the initiative and found creative ways to pursue their interests or help the people around them despite the challenges they faced.