Seniors, your college applications may be in, but your work is not over.
As the decisions start coming in, including key financial figures, you will need to process and act on a lot of complex information to reach a final decision on where to attend college.
Here are some key actions you need to take during second semester to ensure you join the collegiate Class of 2026.
The Class of 2021 was the first to have their entire college admissions process disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, most colleges implemented test-optional policies so as to not disadvantage students who could not take an SAT or ACT admissions test. Now that their applications have been submitted, reviewed, and decided on, the results of this new approach are available to review.
So, the question we are getting more than any other right now is if a student should go test-optional this year?
For most colleges and universities, the past year has been full of obstacles and challenges the likes of which they have never seen, but it may pale in comparison to the demographic shifts expected to affect many of them in the next 10-15 years.
With millions of students enrolled in Advance Placement courses, the College Board had to scramble last year to provide a test solution in May with most schools closed and students learning remotely.
Those expectations were never realistic, and the resulting exams, which were provided via a new online platform that relied on heavy-handed security and delivered unreliable performance, left many students frustrated or even unable to complete their exams. Exams were shortened and only covered a limited amount of material, and many wondered if colleges would even accept the scores (they did).
Fast forward to spring 2021 – the College Board has implemented many new changes for this year to improve the experience, but how each of your exams are administered this year will likely depend on the decisions of one person, and you will not have a say.
You have questions—we have the answers.
For the past year, the college admissions process has been changing on the fly to adapt to the restrictions and inequalities imposed by the pandemic. The Class of 2021, who have borne the largest share of this disruption, are now hearing back the results of their application efforts. While we do not know the final tallies on who was admitted, schools have begun releasing information about their applicant pools, which reveal some interesting trends.
Understandably, our families of juniors and sophomores, who face a confusing array of potential options for their college admissions process as schools and others adapt to Covid, are asking what this year’s results tell about the changes ahead for their students.
In an unexpected announcement in mid-January, the College Board said it will cease all SAT Subject Tests immediately in the United States and that it will no longer offer the written essay portion of the SAT college admissions test.
Since March, the college admissions test process has become a string of hits and misses for students, test providers of the ACT and SAT, and colleges trying to inject equity into a chaotic admissions process. Many seniors were ultimately unable to test or decided that the effort was not worth it. With senior testing now complete, test capacity should open up for juniors who have been unable to test so far. With that in mind, those juniors planning to test in the first half of 2021 should prepare now to ensure their test plan succeeds.
You have questions—we have the answers.
One fear many parents express to us is the potential for long-term negative effects from an extended virtual school experience. Many parents share this fear. In an April survey by Learning Heroes, fifty-four percent of parents expressed concern about keeping their child on track for grade level, and a similar percent expressed concern that school closures and changes would have a negative impact on their child’s education. Little has changed for students over the course of the spring semester, summer, and subsequent return to virtual education in the fall, with many students unaccounted for or unable to attend on a regular basis.
While each student responds differently, we find most are not thriving in the current distance-learning environment. Even high achievers are finding the expected level of self-instruction and class management to be exhausting and defeating. This week, Maryland’s State Superintendent urged school systems to start bringing students back in limited numbers to counter the perceived effects. While many predictions were being made about the potential for learning loss during the early days of the pandemic, we are just now starting to see real data from standardized test results that can quantify the effect.
According to a new study by the American Educational Research Association, more than half of the students tracked over a five-year period experienced learning loss over the summer months, averaging a loss of nearly 40 percent of their school year gains each summer.
The study’s authors expect that loss to be magnified by the disruption to in-school learning this year, comparing the period since March to an extended summer vacation for most students.
To help mitigate learning loss, we most often help students over the summer with their core skills – the ones that they will turn to time and again throughout high school and college.
The college admissions test companies continue to struggle with providing access to testing across the country. With many members of the Class of 2021 still lacking scores and the Class of 2022 gearing up to test this fall, the pressure is on for testing to be widely and safely available.
The companies are responding to the crisis with mixed results so far, but both are promising to deliver more testing capacity this fall and winter.