Applying to College in a Pandemic stinks!

College planning in the midst of a pandemic is certainly challenging.  Many K-12 schools are determining if they will open in person, virtually or some form of hybrid. Students aren’t confident they will get all the classes they need if they choose a virtual format.  Parents are worried that grade point averages will be impacted by students having to do so much remote work.

On top of those concerns, many testing centers had to cancel SAT and ACT exams.  The National Association for College Admission Counseling is compiling a list of schools who have either permanently or temporarily gone test optional.  You can access the list at–publications/newsroom/test-optional-means-test-optional/.  These schools will not be using the SAT or ACT for admissions purposes.  Check each college’s website for their test optional policy and how it impacts scholarships.

What can a senior be doing right now to help themselves?  They should schedule a virtual or in-person visit to the colleges they hope to apply.  Many are offering both and you can schedule on their website.  They should be working on their applications and essays.  Make sure to visit the website and read through any deadlines, requirements, etc so that you can ask questions during your virtual or in-person visit.  Seniors should be collecting letters of recommendation if needed for their applications (typically these are also online and you send your recommender a link to complete the form). 

If a student has no idea where they want to apply, there is still plenty of time to search.  Start by using a college planning website like, or Naviance if your school has that program.  Based on your interests and how you answer certain questions, they will recommend some schools to look at. Talk to your school counselor about your interests as they will know many schools to recommend.

If a student has their heart on a particular school—consider applying early or even by an early action or early decision program.  Most early decision programs are binding so read the requirements and details if you elect to go this route.

The one positive of this pandemic is it will build resiliency in students.  They are learning to be patient, innovative, and seek out information to accomplish what they need.  Those will be skills that help them for the rest of their life.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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