On New Years' Day, I don't think that any of us expected to be where we are. I don't think that any of us expected to become mask-wearing, social distancing experts. I don't think parents expected to become homeschooling experts. I don't think our students expected to miss out on so many high school memories. But here we are, with more questions than answers and a lot of uncertainty in front of us.
Luckily, you have me.
In this issue, we are going to discuss what you should focus on as your child approaches their senior year and how you can ensure that your child has every possible opportunity moving forward while keeping in mind the goal of reducing their future cost of college. My goal is to inform parents so that they can feel a sense of control around the critical decisions that will affect both them and their child for the next several years.
At this point, try to schedule your visits as schools open. The University of Toledo is already allowing in-person tours. While on the tour, your child should request to meet with the chair or head of the department that they plan to major in. The chairs's focus for their program may be dramatically different than your child expects— which could make the school a poor choice, despite enjoying the campus.
Once you have a list of schools, it is important to know their requirements— what test scores do they typically admit? What GPA? What high school credits should they have? Imagine if your child understood this as a HS freshman. How would that impact their drive to earn A’s? It is never too early to begin the discussion!
If you have a younger child, it is a great idea to start visiting college campuses while on vacation during their freshman year in high school. Allowing them to see several options will help them determine which is truly the best type of school for them.
4. Test Scores are important— even if a school says it's test optional!
To give your child the best opportunity to earn admission to their top school and save you money through scholarships, you must begin the testing process early. We highly recommend starting at the end of sophomore year to get a baseline and allow ample time to prep around your child’s hectic schedule.
Today with Covid, many students are feeling too much pressure as they may have only taken one test so far, and have had their opportunity to take tests in April, May, June, and now July cancelled on them. This puts them at a huge disadvantage as they begin their senior year unsure if they will gain admission to their first choice school, and the September test feeling like a do or die situation. Students who have had the opportunity to take the test 2-3 times often have exceeded their desired score and can approach the application process with confidence.
The best thing that students can do is turn this unfortunate situation into an opportunity to spend extra time preparing for the September test.
5. Begin applying as early as possible. Next week we will discuss the timing and expectations for applications!
Test optional means you do not need a test score attached to your application for your application to be considered complete and reviewed for admission. It does not mean that students without a test score will be reviewed in the same way. Unfortunately, human judgment will still play a huge role in admission decisions this coming application cycle. So much so, that many admission reps at selective schools will tell you that if they took all of their applicants and spread them out in a room again, they are likely to select different students, because the majority of their applicants are so similar in grades, test scores, resumes, and awards.
Let's think about this year.
As we said, it is very frustrating to have test after test after test cancelled, often at the last possible minute. However, after talking to the numerous students that this has happened to, it has been clear that students are taking these “setbacks” in stride and are not necessarily upset by the change in plans. They're much more likely to shrug it off and shift their focus to the next test.
Parents, however, are really struggling, as they have to, yet again, alter their schedule and take time to decipher messages from the ACT to see if the test is truly cancelled or if it is just their site that is cancelled. Some parents have had to sit on hold for 2 hours or more to attempt to switch their child’s testing location, while others have already made plans to sign up for the next available test. However, some parents have resorted to saying, “well, does it really matter since so many schools are going test optional?”
Let's be blunt: yes it does.
Consider 10 students from your child’s high school, all hovering around a 4.0 GPA. Each student has a similar list of activities. They all want to go to the same school.
Imagine that the college is expecting to take 5 students from that particular high school this year. Of the 10 applicants from that school, who all look similar based on grades and their resume, 7 submit test scores. Out of these 7 students, 4 have scores over 29, and the other three have scores of 28. As an admissions rep, the 4 who have over a 29 ACT would most likely get in, leaving one last spot open. This last spot could be filled by one of the students that the school knows scored a 28 on the ACT, or by a student without a score.
Do you think a school would be more likely to admit a student that they know has a solid ACT score, which suggests that they would be a strong candidate and successful in college, or a student without a score measuring their ability? Sure, the student without the score may be just as— or even more!— capable as the student with the score, but admissions reps won't know that.
Several parents have said, “yeah, but wont colleges understand?”
Yes and no. Many students have had the chance to take the test, and most importantly EVERYONE has the chance to take it in SEPTEMBER. If you do not apply early and check the box that you are sitting for the September test, it is as though you have already thrown in the towel, given up, and think your grades and activities will make you stand out enough to compete.
Remember, your child is not just competing against other students from their high school; they are competing against students from all over the country. Give them a leg up over their peers.