Applying to College During COVID Times

The New Normal: 3 Tips for Juniors

There’s one fact I’ve gleaned from the 5 million higher ed Zooms and Webinars I’ve recently been on: Because of the COVID pandemic, no one knows how the application cycle for 2020/21 will pan out.

Will it be among the most competitive in recent history due to a decrease in spots for incoming freshman as international students return to the US?

Will this year’s crop of seniors opt for a Gap Year and therefore become members of the class of 2025?

And will some financially vulnerable schools be forced to close, thereby reducing the number of colleges in the US and therefore the number of enrollment spots?

Again, no one knows.

What we do know is that there WILL be an application cycle for 2020/21 and admissions teams at colleges around the country are eager to “engage with” your junior.

To that end, here are some Pro Tips that I’ve deduced from my Zooms to various admissions offices, high school PTA events and advisory panels:

Go On Virtual Campus Tours

An admissions rep from Skidmore College mentioned that they were in fact tracking “demonstrated interest” of virtual tourists. If you do spend time visiting a campus, make sure the school registers your name/email. Follow up with your regional rep and ask questions that arose because of what you heard or saw on the tour. In other words, get sticky with a school by providing details showing you were “there.”

Take A Test

To test or not to test, that seems to be the question. Some schools have “eliminated the requirement” , others have “suspended the requirement” or have stated that students “won’t be disadvantaged in any way” if they don’t submit test scores. My advice? If it’s safe, take a test. And even take SAT 2s/SAT Subject Tests, if possible. If this cycle winds up being competitive, data becomes king/queen. Some college consultants are suggesting that “soft factors” like teachers’ recommendations, activities and essays may be more weighted this year than the “hard factors” of transcripts, GPAs and test scores. This is most likely true, but still, I’d strongly recommend prepping and researching when the next available SAT/ACT is scheduled for to “book ‘em, Danno”!

Don’t Write a COVID Essay

I’ve already begun Brainstorms and Bootcamps with students and while some have wanted to use their quarantine experience as a springboard, most are exploring other material. While I’m “leaning in” about my POV that admissions teams want to learn about the student in general not the student in lock-down, I’m also eager to discuss ways to make the pandemic-as-essay-topic sing. One student realized that her relationship with time has been heightened during the pandemic; when she should be doing homework vs working out, for example, has lost its obvious routinized structure. This process — the discourse between a student and me — underscores the fact that the essay is always about accessing a junior’s unique perspective and tone of voice.

I’m here to coach your student and your family during what will be an unprecedented, and highly unique, application cycle!

For more information about College Counseling/Essay Coaching, please drop me a line at or give me a holler at 917-863-2424. Also, for “news you can use,” please check out my blog, videos, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.