10 Ways High School Seniors Can Stay On Track During COVID

Our current situation is a worldwide health crisis. The word crisis comes with a host of negative feelings: doubt, paranoia, anxiety, fear, and stress. A time of crisis is a time of change, no matter the outcomes. For many graduating seniors, this time of your life is a huge time of flux and transition, regardless of this label “crisis.” Even if your world hadn’t been turned upside down, you would likely still be experiencing many of those same feelings: fear of the unknown, excitement or anxiety about the coming months and years, or indecision and doubt about how to choose your best future. Our current situation is bringing all those feelings into a sharper focus and a harsher reality, but they would be there still.

At More Than A Teacher, our mission has always been to allay the fears and stress of the college admissions process in the best way that we can. By teaching, by offering advice and support. So we have collected advice gleaned from the brightest minds we know: your high school counselors and admissions experts from major universities. A big thank you to the college counselors from Hill Country, St. Dominic Savio, St. Andrews, Ann Richards School, LASA, Austin High, and Dripping Springs High!

While the situation is rapidly changing, here are ten tips for what you can do right now to feel confident in your college choice:

1. COMMUNICATION

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Check your email OFTEN and collect all notifications from any school that you are considering. It’s a good idea to create an email folder for each school. Pay close attention to communication that comes from their social media accounts as well. Add dates and deadlines to your calendar to help keep track.

2. EMAIL COLLEGES

Although college campuses may be shut down, the college admission officers are still working to finalize admissions lists, organize waitlists, review appeals and deferrals, and send out more notices of “YES YOU HAVE BEEN ADMITTED!” If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or email the admissions office. They’ll be happy to hear from you. Remember to check (and follow) their blogs and social media accounts for the most up to date information.

3. ONLINE/VIRTUAL/DIGITAL VISITS

Many students were relying on campus visits in order to help them make an informed decision on where to go. Although campuses are closed and many of these events are canceled, the reality is that much of our world these days has gone VIRTUAL. Most colleges are replacing those activities with online events like live chats, web panel discussions, and virtual live tours. Take advantage of these opportunities to continue to show a demonstrated interest in your top choices.

    • Check your email/social media accounts for “rescheduled to online” formats of these events.
    • Check out these general (open to anyone) virtual campus tours through sites like youvisit.comyouniversitytv.com
    • Check your applicant portals (“my status” sites) and social media – ADVICE: following your schools on TWITTER is one of the best ways to get information

4. EXTENSIONS AND FLEXIBILITY

You have likely heard that many universities are extending deadlines, specifically decision day deadlines. You may now have until June 1st to submit your decision to attend. Watch for emails from the colleges or contact each school for deadline and/or extension updates. Colleges are generally responding by being more flexible and understanding than ever before. The National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) has created a database for colleges to report any changes to deposit deadlines and visit opportunities, as well as how to connect with each admissions office. The tool is here.

5. COLLECT NOTIFICATIONS

Use this time to collect all your acceptance and scholarship notifications. Be organized. Use a spreadsheet or calendar to keep track of all the info. Most of your college counselors actually NEED you to update that information with them (maybe via tools like Naviance, Texas Connect, Renweb, or Scior).

6. ASK FOR HELP

You have so many people who can help guide you and support you throughout this process. As you are notified of college acceptance and financial aid, it’s common for questions to arise, and your first line of thought should always be to ask your college counselor. Even though they aren’t on campus, they are still available by email. And they are excited to hear from you. If you have questions about a financial aid package, don’t hesitate to contact the college itself. Here are some other resources which may help: Accepting Financial AidHow to Break Down Financial Aid Award Letters, and Award Comparison Worksheet. Some students have found that they need signatures from school officials. But you won’t be able to get those – so email your counselor! Use their name plus their email. Colleges and scholarship awards know that you can’t collect signatures right now.

Getty Images used with permission woman with computer

7. UPDATE YOUR INFO

You need to make sure your contact info is up to date, and you need to check your email regularly. Also, it’s recommended that, if you haven’t already, you change all of your contact info from your school email to a personal email. You won’t have a school email after you graduate!

8. ONLINE SESSIONS

Your counselors might be available for video/virtual sessions – CHECK the school counseling portal or email them and find out!

9. GAP YEAR/DEFERRED ADMISSIONS

Many students may opt to defer their admission for another year. You can find out more information on deferring your enrollment from the college itself. Some schools even offer credit for taking a gap year if you choose to participate in certain programs. If the state of the world right now has shifted your priorities, there’s nothing wrong with making a different choice. No doors are closed to you if you defer. Talk to trusted advisors, know yourself, make a choice that fits the future you want to enjoy next year.

10. APPLY FOR MORE SCHOLARSHIPS

Did you know that there isn’t just ONE deadline for when to apply for scholarships? You can apply for scholarships year-round. Applying for scholarships can be a daunting task. So daunting, in fact, that it may be something you have put off all year, simply because you didn’t have the time. But now, you may have more time, so why not use it to find more money for college? Check your school’s financial aid webpage, check your financial aid packages, check for local scholarships available to you, and take this gift of time (if you have it) and apply for more scholarships.

Good luck, seniors! We’ve always been impressed by our students’ intelligence, courage, resilience, creativity, and joy. This is especially true for you, Class of 2020!

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