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Rules on college admissions have changed. Are you changing the way you play this game?

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By Tina Wu | Senior Admissions Counselor, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions

Classes are moved online; SAT/ACTs are canceled, and your extracurricular activities are put on hold. But this could be a blessing in disguise, presenting a chance for you to differentiate yourself amongst other U.S. college applicants.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the latest trends into college admission under COVID-19 and what you can do to get ahead!

What are college admission officers saying?

Admissions to elite U.S. Universities have always taken a holistic approach: admission officers consider students’ grades, standardized testing scores, extracurricular activities, and personality/ fit when evaluating applications. While this still holds, the way your application is looked at will be different this year:

a. Context Matters

Colleges understand the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way students learn and what they do during their free time. Your mock exam might be postponed, your sports seasons might not resume, and your summer programs/ internship might be canceled; but colleges won’t penalize you for that.

Consider the below quote from Yale undergraduate admission office:

“We share your disappointment about canceled performances and sporting events, service projects and mission trips, school activities and conferences. While we wish that all students could continue pursuing their interests and commitments as they did before the outbreak, for most students this will not be possible. We also recognize that many students will need to take on additional responsibilities at home or at a family business during this time.Yale’s application platforms provide ample space to provide contextual information that can help the Committee understand the factors that shaped students’ opportunities and commitments. Rest assured that Yale will take each student’s unique context into account when reviewing applications. No student will be penalized because of a change in commitments or a change to plans because of the outbreak. Our advice to candidates during this time remains the same: demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for whatever you spend your time doing.

In this upcoming admission cycle, colleges will want to understand “contexts.” What are you doing with the extra stay-at-home time? Are you taking care of your family, or are you coordinating a school club online? Colleges will look for students who are:

  • Self- starter: Are you able to find creative ways to continue your extracurricular activities at home? How resourceful are you?
  • Passionate about learning: Are you using your free time to learn, or to pursue your passion?
  • Interested in helping their community:  Are you volunteering with local organizations to make a positive impact in your community during this challenging time?

b. Underweighing Standardized Tests

A number of U.S. universities, including the University of California, Tufts University, and Boston University, will be going test-optional in this upcoming admission cycle, given the disruption of the standardized tests schedule.

Earlier this month, the College Board announced the cancellation of the June SAT, further affecting rising seniors who are planning early summer standardized tests. While the College Board is planning on adding more test dates in the Fall (or even moving the SAT online), a lot of universities are considering putting forth exam-optional policies in light of the unprecedented situation.

Although students should continue preparing for their SAT or ACT, it is essential to note your standardized scores will be underweighted this year.

What does this mean for applicants?

Extracurricular involvement and essays will be the most important components of college applications this cycle!  Knowing this, you can plan and re-strategize your extracurricular activities and discuss how you have utilized this time on your college applications.

Schedule a free consultation with us today if you need help in coming up with creative extra-circular activities or building robust college applications to differentiate yourself from other qualified applicants!

Kaplan_Tina

Ms. Tina Wu

Senior Admissions Counselor

Member of NACAC

M.B.A., Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

BSc. In Accounting and Finance, New York University – Stern School of Business

  • A passionate mentor to students
  • Emphasis on understanding and developing her students’ strengths, positioning their potential to admissions office in the best possible light
  • Over 10 years of experience in helping students gain admissions to top boarding schools and colleges in the U.S.
  • Matriculation includes: Cornell University, University of Michigan, NYU, University of Virginia, UCLA and UC Berkeley

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