COVID-19 SERIES: What Should Juniors Work On Now?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has taken all of our routines & upcoming plans, tossed them into the mud, stomped on them a couple hundred times, then torched them with a flamethrower, collected the ashes, and tossed them into the Bermuda Triangle where they disappeared forever, we’ve been taking life more on a day-to-day basis.
You know, taking a moment to truly appreciate our homes and apartments, and cleaning out all the closets and pantries that “we always meant to do”, and are now doing because we’re bored.
In all the reorganizing, plans for college tours & testing have been canceled, so the question in the minds of most juniors right now is: What should we be doing?
Well, thankfully, there are still 4 very important tasks that you CAN complete while at home:
1. WORK ON YOUR GPA
Even before COVID-19 shook things up, a student’s GPA was the most important part of his/her college application.
Simply put: Because it shows the type of student you are on a more consistent basis.
Didn’t do so well during freshmen year? That’s ok, but did you improve every quarter?
Had a bad quarter? That’s ok, did you figure out how you could study better/your resources so that the quarter after went well?
So, in short, take this time to ensure that you have the best grades you can get.
As for testing?
As of right now, the next SAT is on August 29, and chances are that it’ll be online.
The SATs after that one are:
- September 26
- October 23
- November 7
- December 5
Tentative ACT dates:
- June 13
- July 18
- September 12
- October 24
- December 12
While there are test dates in 2021 for both exams, the 2020 dates I mentioned are the most relevant to current juniors, because most college applications will have been submitted by January.
If you’re trying to figure out when to start prep, I would recommend starting about 3-4 months before the actual test date. That includes self-prepping or working with a tutor, taking a course, etc. It’s always safer to allow more time up front because you never know what holes you might find in your content knowledge/strategy use.
For the upcoming August SAT, I would recommend mid-late June as a good start time and for the September ACT, I would recommend end of June or early July at the latest. As for the June & July ACTs, you should start preparing now if you haven’t done so. I recommend concentrating on the school year right now & test prepping over the summer.
With that said, more and more universities are going test-optional, meaning you can choose to submit an SAT or ACT score if you prefer, but are NOT required to do so.
Before you decide on a course of action, double-check on the websites of all the universities you’re considering to make sure that you do/don’t have to submit a test score.
So with that said, onto the next task you can work on from home….
2. CONDUCT YOUR COLLEGE SEARCH
While it seems like all your plans, hopes, and dreams of visiting college campuses and buying university hoodies/T-shirts so you can take pictures and post them seem to have been laid to waste, all is not lost.
You can still conduct your college search & do your college tours online.
Fine, I’ll concede that it *might* be, but you really won’t know until you try. At least you’re still moving forward in the process, and ultimately, that’s what matters more: that you don’t fall behind.
If you’re just starting your college journey and don’t know which universities you’d want to consider, I recommend using Collegeboard’s CollegeSearch tool to help you narrow it down. The site has filter you can choose from – including location, size of the university, and paying- and provides you with profiles of universities that match your criteria. As for the filters, if there are certain topics that you just don’t care about, then leave them blank. Only select those that are important to you. Just about every student as an account on Collegeboard already (thanks to PSATs), so if you want to add certain universities to your list or your save your search, just login and you’ll be allowed to do so.
If your high school is linked to Naviance, you have a similar tool/service available. Either option works – they’re roughly the same when it comes to their databases of universities.
Once you have a couple of universities selected, start scheduling college tours. You can just Google “ *insert name of university name* campus tours”. It’s easier to navigate any sort of college search via Google; trying to find things via a university’s website can get really, really annoying.
No, seriously. It can get really annoying.
There’s no uniformity, so every university’s website can be as simple or as complicated as it chooses to make it.
Either way, whether you’re searching for campus tours or testing requirements, let Google conduct the search for you.
If a university offers the option to “attend a college class”, I highly recommend you sign up. What better way to find out what you could be walking into?
3. WRITE YOUR COLLEGE ESSAY…DRAFT #1
Common App, the college applications platform, releases the new cycle’s college essay topics every January.
So, even before COVID-19 came into the picture, all juniors knew the seven writing topics they could choose from. For the current list of essay prompts, click here. It doesn’t matter which topic you pick, so choose one that you feel you can write about. Word count max. 650.
For examples of what good/great college essays look like, along with feedback from the university’s Admissions Committee, check out John’s Hopkins Essays That Worked. Essays from previous years are also accessible at the end of the website’s page.
Note the different writing formats used & how each student shared his/her story.
Now this is by no means urgent, but since COVID-19 is reorganizing the process a little, it would be a great idea to at least complete the first draft of your college essay.
More likely that not, you’ll trash it. It’s normal.
Before you trash it, write the full draft.
Even is it’s garbage, write it all out so you can see just how you want the whole essay to flow- what should the beginning look like? Does the middle part still continue on your main point or did you go off-topic? As for the conclusion, did you convey everything you were hoping to?
4. DON’T PANIC!
Changes are happening and they’re all around us. For years the college applications process has had flaws but the approach has been “if it ain’t broken, why fix it?”
Now those flaws are being brought into the light and as such, testing relevance & admissions processes are getting 2nd, 3rd, & 4th looks.
There are lots of questions up in the air, like:
Are the SATs or ACTs actually important? They don’t test for anything, so why are we paying so much? Why are universities so freakin’ expensive? Is it worth it?
As Collegeboard, ACT, and universities around the country work to figure it all out, we’ll hear from them.
Bottom line: Don’t worry.
If you haven’t had a chance to take an SAT or ACT, it’s ok.
If you can’t do live campus tours, it’s ok.
If you have to submit test scores for athletic recruitment but don’t have any available to show, it’s ok.
These are strange times and every single person and industry has felt the impacts, so new rules and plans need to be figured out.
Until then, do the best you can and try to stay as caught up (and get ahead) with the college applications process as possible.
So with all that said, I’m going to re-watch the Hamilton cast perform on John Krasinski’s SomeGoodNews Youtube channel until my brain goes numb, because IT’S SO FREAKIN’ AWESOME!
Seriously, if you haven’t watched the episodes already, you should, they’re hilarious and heartwarming.
Note: While I tried to add humor to this situation, a HUGE heartfelt thank you to all essential employees – healthcare professionals, grocery store employees, postal service employees, delivery drivers, and all others- for keeping us all going. We wouldn’t be able to keep safe & comfortable if you all weren’t out there working. In addition to that, my condolences to anyone who has lost loved ones to this pandemic.