Planning for college can be an exciting time for families. Touring your dream school, filling out applications and shopping for your dorm are all milestones in the college preparation process. But, like many other things, the pandemic has changed the way students find their perfect university. No need to worry, local certified educational planner, Kate Malczewski from College Connectors in Edina shares some tips to help ensure students and parents are up to date on all things college related.
Not all change is bad change
The ACT and SAT have been used as common standardized college admission tests for many years, and many students dread the process. These tests have induced tremendous anxiety, and often a lot of expense, for many prospective college students. During the pandemic, some universities have dropped standardized testing as an admission requirement, and since there had already been much debate about the fairness and reliability of these tests, these changes may be here to stay. Malczewski says, “What we’re hearing is that [standardized college admission tests like the ACT and SAT] are optional … I don’t think it’s a passing fad, I think COVID jump-started [this trend] which allowed schools to realize they can admit a successful class without a test score.”
Standing out from the pack
As admission requirements have shifted and colleges are looking more at a students’ overall body of work, a well-rounded application can help students stand out from the crowd. But every college is different. Malczewski points out that depending on what a university’s mission is, there are different things looked for in applicants, from interviews, essays, recommendations and all those extra components of an application that are measured to holistically evaluate a student’s abilities. Malczewski suggests looking into what each prospective school requires and then focus on those things for each application. This is especially true with opportunities for students becoming more available now that things are opening once again, opportunities to get back out there in ways that may enhance a college application. Malczewski says, “We can’t change the past, but students can look forward to what opportunities might be opening up.”
Don’t skip class just yet
Though colleges are looking more holistically at students, grades still play a key part in any application. According to Malczewski, there is a renewed interest in students’ overall grades to determine the kind of college student they will become, and by and large, transcripts, coursework grades and rigor are what schools evaluate to determine whether to admit a student. But Malczewski points out that applicants need not worry about the way COVID may have affected transcripts through many schools’ use of pass/fail grading or altered scheduling from hybrid and distance learning since virtually all students’ applications will reflect these changes and colleges are aware of these situations.
Making up for lost time
One of the biggest concerns for many students and parents has been the loss of activity time, volunteering and other extracurriculars many students faced due to the pandemic. But Malczewski emphasizes the fact that college applicants are all in the same boat and should not worry about things that may have been missed out on. She suggests emphasizing on applications the things students were able to achieve with any extra time they may have had while not participating in typical activities. Malczewski says, “Some of the students I have worked with have written about how they have been able to participate in activities in a different way by rethinking the way in which they can connect with people through this season of distance. This is one approach to reworking your application in light of COVID by demonstrating your ability to adapt well to change.” Malczewski also suggests writing about a hobby students may have picked up during quarantine or something they discovered about themselves during this unique time of reflection.
Finding the perfect match
As students and schools adapt to changes brought on by the pandemic, adjustments must be made to reflect and determine the most qualified applicants. Finding a school that best represents a student’s strengths will help them stand out from the rest. Malczewski’s final piece of advice is this, “Reflect on who you are as a student and what would be the best fit for you. Don’t try to fit into a specific school; instead look for a place where you know you can thrive for four years.”