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4 Essential steps during COVID to prepare for College Applications!

COVID-19 continues to irrevocably impact lives around the world. For students with their eyes set on college later this year, things feel more anxious than ever. To add to this stress, SAT has recently cancelled test dates, added new ones, and colleges and students are put in a hard spot about what the path forward looks like. 

It’s impossible to tell what the future will hold, but refer to this guide to learn the latest about what is happening with the SAT and what you should do for your college prospects.

Snapshot of SAT Updates

As of this writing:

Canceled Tests

  • 02 May 2020
  • 06 June 2020

Anticipated Test Dates

  • 29 August 2020: SAT 1
  • 26 September 2020: SAT 1 only
    • This is a new test tentatively added to address the concerns around the virus
  • 03 October 2020: SAT 1 & 2
  • 05 December 2020: SAT 1 & 2

Review the latest news for the SAT here. Here are some key takeaways:

  • “Students can register for these administrations starting in May. We’ll contact students directly during the week of May 26 to provide an exact date. Eligible students can register with a fee waiver.”

  • “Students can get early access to register for August, September, and October if they’re:
    • Already registered for June
    • In the high school class of 2021 and don’t have SAT scores


If schools remain closed until the fall, College Board is also considering moving tests online. However, the details of such a scenario have yet to be released.

 

Now that we’re caught up, what should you do?

 

It’s easy and normal to fall into a state of panic and be paralyzed by an uncertain future. As always, however, don’t focus on what you can’t control, focus on what you can control. It’s important to remember that you’re not the only one being affected by this situation, and that hundreds of students and families just like you are in the same position. So what can you do?

 

#1. Hit the books for some extra practice

 

For some, the test cancellations may be a blessing in disguise. Many of you may find that you have more free time than you did previously, and you should use that time to continue working on your SAT skills. Don’t take the test cancellations as a sign for you to kick your feet up and push off studying for a couple months! It’s your time to seize the opportunity, hit the books, and prepare yourself to get the best possible SAT score. 

 

Remember, that with tests being canceled and new test dates being back to back from one another, you have less time to prepare for the SAT between tests and fewer opportunities to take it if you aren’t happy with your initial score. Practice now and ensure that you earn a strong SAT score from the beginning!

 

For those others who were ready to slay the canceled SAT tests, you’re probably disheartened. It’s tough, but that means you have to stay on top of your game. SAT skills are perishable like playing an instrument, and it’s imperative that you continue to practice to keep your game sharp. 

 

#2. Get the TOEFL or IELTS out of the way

 

If you’re an international student, you will need an English language proficiency test to prove your English language abilities. With the SAT canceled, colleges are likely to place an emphasis on these tests to determine if an international candidate is prepared for higher education. 

 

Unlike the SAT which is only offered once a month for select months throughout the year, TOEFL and IELTS tests are offered almost every weekend. While many test centers are also closed right now because of the virus, TOEFL is moving to an online test you can take at home.

 

If you’re already crushing the SAT Reading & Writing sections, you should have no problem acing the TOEFL or IELTS with a little practice around what the actual tests entail and learning what they’re looking for. If you are struggling with the SAT Reading & Writing, then studying for the TOEFL or IELTS should help you with the SAT. 

 

While some colleges you have your eye on might have different policies around what qualifies to fulfill their English language requirements, to be on the safe side and keep your options open, you should have a strong TOEFL or IELTS score on record.

 

#3. Strengthen Your Extracurricular Profile

 

Despite the emphasis many Asians place on standardized tests like the SAT (my parents included), it’s only one part of your college application. Your GPA, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation are all very important parts of your application. 

Here are some things you can do:

  • Raise or maintain a high GPA
    • Some schools are offering an option to switch from Pass / No Pass from the regular GPA. However, if you do so, do you have a good reason for it? Everyone is experiencing the coronavirus, but if you’re relatively well off, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to maintain a good GPA.
  • Stay involved in your clubs and extracurricular activities
    • Your plans may have been quashed by the virus, but now is the time more than ever to realize the importance of working remotely. Just because you aren’t physically with your club mates doesn’t mean you can’t continue to find ways to be productive. Flex your creativity and leadership!
    • Some ideas:
      • Organize an online fundraiser for those affected by the virus.
      • Continue meeting with your club through virtual meetings.
      • Rally members to volunteer for a local service organization.
  • Talk to your teachers about letters of recommendation
    • With classes online, you’re getting less physical facetime with your teachers. Colleges weigh letters of recommendation heavily when considering a candidate, so now is the time to prove that you’re engaged in class more than ever and step up to the plate.

 

#4. Research colleges and majors and work on other parts of your application

 

Sometimes students forget the reason that they’re studying for the SAT in the first place! Use the time now to do research into the colleges and majors that you might be interested in. These colleges are potentially going to be where you spend the next 4 years of your life, so do the research! You wouldn’t buy something off Amazon without reading some reviews first, would you? College might be one of the most consequential purchases you make, so there’s no reason to not do your homework.

 

At the same time, the college application has many parts: the personal statement, developing a resume, supplemental essays, and so on. Use this time now to get a head start instead of waiting for the last minute. Almost every student underestimates how long it will take them to write their essays and they find themselves in a mad cram session to finish everything. Don’t be a sucker! Get started early!

 

Some colleges are waiving standardized testing requirements. Should I still take it?

 

Short answer, yes. 

 

Colleges won’t penalize you for things out of your control. For example, if all the SAT tests are canceled except for one, colleges will know that and take it into consideration. Colleges, much like The College Board (don’t get the two confused), are monitoring the situation everyday, creating contingency plans, and determining the best path forward. Remember that you are not alone in this, and colleges will create the best solution they see fit for incoming applicants, whatever that means. 

 

With that said, you should take the SAT if you can. While some colleges are waiving the requirement, they will consider why you don’t have a test score. If you don’t have a test score while another applicant with a similar profile to yours does, they’ll question why you don’t have a test score. It’s entirely possible that you had a tragic circumstance that prevented you from taking the test, but you’ll need to sufficiently explain that. 

 

If everyone else is able to take the test that has similar circumstances to you, it’ll become a question why you don’t have a test score. 

 

At the end of the day, colleges will still need an efficient way to separate good applicants from bad ones, and the SAT and other tests will be the quickest and easiest way for them to do that. That doesn’t mean you have no hope if you absolutely cannot take the test, but you should keep in mind your reasoning for not being able to take the test and the rest of your profile should be very strong. 

 

Conclusion

 

Key takeaways:

  • SAT is planning for tests in August, September, October, November, and December
  • What you should do in the meantime:
    • Continue studying for the SAT
    • Get the TOEFL or IELTS out of the way
    • Strengthen other parts of your application profile
    • Research colleges and majors and work on the rest of your application now
  • You should still take the SAT if you can despite some colleges waiving the requirement

 

There will be a life after COVID-19 and there will be a return to normalcy. However, that new normal will probably be different from the previous normal. The only certain thing in life is that things will change. Will you be prepared to learn and adapt to succeed or will you continue to wish things were the way they once were? (The answer is that you should be ready to adapt :))

 

John Fujita, Deputy Head of Admission Consulting, Point Avenue