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College Admissions during a Pandemic v. 5

It is difficult, these days, to keep up with all the news about college admissions, testing, and campus visits. Parents and students have more questions than answers?  Are schools opening in the fall? How are they opening?  Remotely? In person? A combination? Do students have to take the SAT or ACT?  What is test optional? Are campus visits happening in person?

In this blog post, I will attempt to give you the latest, most up to date (as of August 26, 2020) information to answer any or, at least, most of your questions.

College Openings Fall 2020

  • About 70% of colleges have plans to open for in person instruction at some point during the fall of 2020. For specific information about colleges you are interested in, check out:  https://www.nacacnet.org/news–publications/Research/CollegeOpenings/
  • After 135 coronavirus cases, University of North Carolina decided to close campus and only offer online classes for the fall.
  • Other colleges quickly followed Chapel Hill’s lead and closed their campus. This included Michigan State and Notre Dame.
  • Some colleges are delaying their in-person start dates, including the University of Maryland and Brown.
  • Many colleges have developed plans for staying open, amidst an outbreak on their campus, with specific dorms and buildings devoted to quarantining those who are positive for the virus.All colleges have developed safety plans that include covid-19 testing prior to entering campus, daily random testing throughout the campus, mandatory mask wearing and strict cleaning protocols
      • As of yesterday, NC State reported seven new clusters in different dorms.
      • The University of Alabama reported more than 500 cases.Colleges that have decided to stay open are providing daily tallies of new Covid-19 cases on campus:
  • More than 228 students were suspended from Ohio State due to breaking safety protocols.
  • Many incoming freshmen were required to report to college early so they could quarantine in their new dorm for 2 weeks prior to college beginning. At Syracuse, the college provided all meals to the students.

If you want to know about a specific policy at a college, I encourage you to check out the school’s website, specifically the Covid policy change (a link to this information should be on the front page of the college’s website) or call the school.

An update on college testing:  My opinion

The biggest change to the college admissions’ process since March 2020 has been with testing.  The companies that administer the SAT and ACT were forced to cancel all of the spring tests due to safety concerns.  Both College Board, which runs the SAT program, and the ACT announced a plan in early March  for offering online testing by August 2020.  That hasn’t happened!

Instead what has happened is tests are cancelled, without explanation.  Parents and students are frustrated, angry and anxious.  During this past week, I had 15 of my students and parents contact me as the August test had been cancelled. For three of my students, this is the fifth time they have signed up for the test only to have it cancelled.

One frustrated mom told me: “I have called and called the College Board and can’t get anyone on the phone. And, although I am told I will get my money back for the cancelled test, I have yet to see a refund for any of the five tests she signed up for!”  This is wrong!

So why are these tests being cancelled?

It depends on who you ask.  Both College Board and ACT will tell you that the fault lies with the high schools where the tests are being administered.  The high schools will tell you that, in order to keep everyone safe, they must have a lot more of their teaching staff for proctors as well as staff to thoroughly sanitize the classrooms both before and after the testing.  The teachers will tell you that this is not a required assignment for them, that the pay is very minimal, and that they also need to feel safe.

So, while everyone is blaming everyone else, the students lose out on taking the test.  As one mom recently shared with me: “My daughter has been studying all summer for the SAT and is ready to take it.  She usually does well on tests and we both felt that her score would propel her to her first-choice school, Dartmouth.  Now what!?!”  The impact of this on parents and students is frustration, anger, tears and more anxiety.  It did not have to be this way!

The ‘good’ news is that more schools than ever have become test optional.  What that means is that there are now more than 1,450 colleges that will review a student’s complete application and admit them without requiring the student to submit either an ACT or SAT.  This list continues to grow.  For a full list of test optional colleges, please visit:  https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional

When I learned of plans for an online SAT and ACT, I applauded the effort and told all of my students that this was the answer to their concerns. When that does happen, I will eagerly share the news.  But right now, the system for providing testing for our juniors and seniors is broken.  I believe that the multi-million-dollar companies, the College Board and the ACT, should suspend testing, at least for 2020-2021, go back to what is broken and fix it.

Find a way to offer the testing online that is safe and secure, without involving the use of high school classrooms, teachers and staff.  I am also in agreement with  the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, NACAC, and the Independent Counselors Association, IECA, that ALL colleges should become test optional, at least for this next year.

I fully recognize that this might cause these two companies to spend some money while they aren’t making money.  I also realize that this will severely impact all of the test-prep companies in the United States.   I am asking this for all of the 15- 18-year-old students out there who are doing everything they can to improve their grades, gain leadership experience and volunteer in their community in the hope that one day they can attend college.  They are our future!  They are worth it!

Please contact me if I can help you with any aspect of the college admissions process.  I can be reached at dianne@launchingcollegesuccess.com or 240-285-1920. Thank you