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Applying to College When Everything Is Closed

What you need to know about progressing the application process during the pandemic.

Right now is when you, a junior in high school should be looking at colleges—but almost every school is shut down and no one is on campus. Entrance exams are being postponed or outright canceled. So what can you do to keep your college career on track? Here are a few tips and things to be aware of as the pandemic situagirl on laptoption continues to evolve.

Entrance exams. The April ACT testing date was pushed to June 13, 2020. Assuming a level of normalcy returns by then, any student that was registered to take the April test will take it in June and nothing will really change. The SAT planned for May 2 was canceled. Your best bet is to re-register for a later date.

The College Board, which owns and runs the SAT, has recommended students use Khan Academy to stay sharp on the knowledge and skills the test requires. No matter what resource you were using to prepare for the exam, keep doing it. This isn’t a setback—it’s a chance to be better prepared.

Campus tours. On a school-by-school basis, you’ll have to figure out a solution for visiting prospective college campuses. A lot of schools already have virtual tour options. Some are pre-recorded. Others are live video chats using one of the innumerable options available.

If you’ve already been in contact with an admissions counselor, keep in contact with them. If not, reach out; someone can walk you through what you need to know. It might not be the experience you wanted, but life is never like the movies.

Application.  Nothing should really change here, as of right now. You’ll have to apply online anyways (it’s been that way for years). With the downtime, it’s as good as a time as any to fill out some applications. Double-check your grammar. Make sure all the needed information is filled out.

One thing you can do is start to build generic content for your applications. You’re going to need a personal statement, usually 650 words. Take the time to really refine this. Think about a moment in life that speaks to who you are—a time that illustrates your leadership or dedication to knowledge. Try to mention something that really stands out.

You’re going to need to list achievements in about 150 words or so. That can be a lot harder than it sounds. Break out that thesaurus and use the dictionary to find words that best fit and explain what you mean the most—and in the fewest letters!

Scholarships. What else are you going to do right now? Save money on school, that’s what! There are tons of odd scholarships out there that you can apply for. Between finishing classes online and re-watching shows on Netflix, search for more scholarships. Check out each school’s website. Look at non-profit organizations’ websites. Whatever you do, don’t use sites that expect you to pay for scholarship information—they’re trying to steal your identity and/or scam you out of money.

Start early. Take some online college classes. Between Yale’s course on happiness to a basic lit class, you can find a lot of them online for free right now. Some can even get you credit or a certificate for a small price. Being able to prove to schools that you can manage college-level classes will only help you.

No matter what you do, don’t forget that eventually things will go back to some level of normalcy. Don’t let the strangeness stop your future. Use the downtime to work toward making life better when you can return to a regular schedule.

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