High school seniors were thrown for a loop when the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools across the state, ending not only in-person classes, but once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to celebrate major milestones of growing up: prom, graduation and the opportunity to visit prospective college campuses; to name a few.
While it is normal and healthy to mourn for the events we had planned, this is not a time to
throw in the towel of the future and avoid thoughts of achieving a higher education. Seth Bykofsky’s (known as “The College Whisperer”) first piece of advice for college-bound seniors is a friendly reminder that self-quarantine isn’t spring break or summer vacation—don’t skip out on various aspects of e-learning being employed by school districts.
For high school seniors already accepted to college, proceed within the realm of what can be done without visiting campus, as if classes will, in fact, begin in September, Bykofsky said. Make your college decision. Pay your deposit. Visit your college web portal to complete college-specific requirements.
Keep (or start) searching and applying for college scholarships. Submit the FAFSA (if you haven’t already done so). Stay in touch with your high school guidance counselor to make sure all college-ready essentials are taken care of in a timely manner. Don’t forget to read your emails, as that is how colleges are most likely to contact you.
“For high school juniors, who would now or soon be starting the college application and admissions process in earnest, the good news is that almost everything you have to do at this point can be done online,” he said. “That said, there’s a ‘to do’ list of sorts to keep high school juniors (and even sophomores and freshmen, when it comes to searching and applying for scholarships) engaged and on track.”
Here are Bykofsky’s helpful tips for the navigating college admissions process:
Create a new Gmail email address
Keep it professional, using your first and last name. Use the account exclusively for everything college. Keep it organized with folders for emails relating to financial aid and for each college you applied to.
Write all of your logins in a notebook
Naviance, Common App, College Board, colleges, scholarship search engines, all have logins. Don’t trust them to memory, your laptop or cell phone, let alone to the Cloud.
Don’t sweat missing the ACT and/or SAT
Many colleges no longer require these tests. Most are likely to waive them given the current situation. Students may be able to take AP exams online from home. Check with your guidance office.
Use it to build a resume in the “About Me” section. List out every activity, in school and out: every award, honor, citation and pat on the back. Basically, anything you have done during waking hours from the 9th grade on. Include planned senior year activities as well, even though we are still in the junior year. You can also use it to add prospective colleges to “Colleges I’m Thinking About” under the Colleges tab as you begin to build your college list.
Use www.collegedata.com to search for and refine your college preferences. Create an account. Plug in as much info as possible about your interests (academic and otherwise), college characteristics (size, location, housing, etc.), and a list of colleges that would be a good fit, based on the criteria you enter, will be presented. Also check out CollegeRaptor.com and The Big Future, for guidance in honing in on your college choices as well as available majors.
Request information from colleges you are or may be interested in via the college websites, and like/follow colleges on social media. In the fall, sign up and attend information sessions for colleges that visit your high school. A calendar of college visits, as well as sign up, are typically found on Naviance.
Use www.fastweb.com to register and begin to search for scholarships. Watch for and read emails, and apply, apply, apply. There are literally thousands of scholarship opportunities out there. Most are little more than contests or sweepstakes, with no essays required. Also check out Niche. Chegg. Scholarships.com. ScholarshipOwl. Unigo. Set aside and dedicate time each week to search for scholarships.
Take A Virtual Tour
You can’t visit college campuses, but you can visit colleges you may be interested in without ever having to get out of your pajamas. Check out these websites: youniversityTV.com, campustours.com and ecampustours.com.
Begin to think seriously about your Common Application essay. Jot down ideas and bullet points.Keep in mind that regardless of the prompt, colleges want to know who you are, who you hope to become over the next few years, and what, other than your tennis racket and that 72” HDTV, you will bring to campus, and to the community beyond. Aside from grades, scores and activities, the essay is your opportunity to stand out above the crowd, showcasing your character and your personality.
Keep Guidance In The Loop
Speak with your guidance counselor regularly to discuss college plans, high school requirements, scholarship opportunities, etc. Remember, your school counselor will be writing that all-important Guidance Report, so familiarity is a good thing.