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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Ways to Explore Academic Interests

 by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS, Founder of Celtic College Consultants

High school courses introduce students to a variety of topics. Learning more about those that interest you takes some effort but will be very helpful when comparing potential majors, majors at different colleges, as well as various concentrations within majors, not to mention potential research and internship opportunities.

In some cases, students can take a course at a local college or online in their area of interest. Many universities have numerous courses available through various online platforms like Coursera.

Another option is to attend undergraduate research presentations at colleges you are exploring. Watching student presentations will introduce high school students to the topics as well as expose them to the caliber of research and presentations being done by undergraduates.

A third option is to attend academic conferences. At these, students will be exposed to advanced research topics and techniques, have opportunities to learn from leading scholars and faculty in fields they are interested in, as well as possible networking opportunities. Hopefully, students will also be inspired and will be able to glean ideas for further study and/or activities in their community. Advice and/or exposure to well-done and effectively presented research will also provide valuable input for their own endeavors.

Attend a conference in your areas of interest this Spring! Typically high school students can register at the undergraduate rate. Here are a few; there are many more!

Upcoming Spring 2021 Academic Conferences (ALL Virtual)

  1. American Chemical Society’s Annual Meeting: April 5-10, 2021This STEM conference separates out its “student-focused programming.” These include sessions such as “Enabling environmentally friendly plastics” and “Goals and activities of the Warriors Chemistry Club: COVID-19 edition.”  ($29 online registration fee for all 5 days, just attend the sessions you want to.)
  2. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Conference on Soft Robotics hosted by Yale University: April 12-16, 2021  Presenters from Yale, Facebook, UC San Diego, Columbia, and more are planned. Includes optional workshops on topics such as material intelligence and interventional robotics, as well as a robotics competition you can observe and two informative “speed networking” sessions you can partake in. ($25 online registration fee)
  3. Society for Affective Science Annual Conference (co-sponsored by Harvard, Tufts, and the Society for the Improvement for Psychological Science): April 13-16, 2021.Includes faculty presenters from UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, Harvard, U of Michigan, Vanderbilt, and more on topics on psychology, neuropsychology, family dynamics, and speech and brain patterns. ($50 online registration fee)
  4. Society for Military History’s 87th Annual Meeting: May 20-23, 2021Online and in-person in Norfolk, VA. They have not yet posted the virtual registration rate, but will soon and should be similar to these other conferences.
  5. Society for Freshwater Science Annual Meeting: May 23-27, 2021This is their first ever virtual conference. Session topics include: freshwater science ecological changes in arctic lakes and rivers, inequitable waterscapes, environmental justice, “herstory in freshwater sciences,” and more. Also includes e-workshops such as “writing for aquatic scientists”  and “Trash Talk,” on the ecology of trash in freshwater. ($30 online registration fee)

These are 5 low cost options that could make a BIG impact on your spring, and perhaps your summer and eventual college, graduate school and/or research pathway as well. If you've found particular professors interesting, see if any of them are speaking at conferences and see if you can attend. You may even get to do some Q&A with them!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Good, as well as Alarming, Changes to Financial Aid Eligibility for the HS Classes of 2023 and beyond

 

Recent Changes have BIG Impacts for families with younger children!

At the very end of 2020, as part of the COVID 19 relief bill, a number of changes to the FAFSA form and the formula used to calculate need based financial aid eligibility were made. These will go into effect in 2022, when families start to file the FAFSA for the 2023/2024 school year. All current sophomores/10th grade students and younger will be affected.

Some of these are quite beneficial. The number of questions was cut from 108 to 40. A smaller amount of both parent and student income will be assessed as part of the family's resources to pay for college. The COA or cost of attendance for one year of college will be required to be posted on each college's website. That has not been the case so finding the total costs at most colleges has been quite difficult if not impossible.Veterans' education benefits and workers' compensation will no longer be counted as income.

Additionally, the elusive and confusing EFC (expected family contribution) will be renamed and called the Student Aid Index (SAI). Since the actual out of pocket cost of college is typically more than the EFC, changing this misleading name should help end that confusion. Unfortunately, because of the many factors each college considers when creating aid packages, the SAI will not give a family clarity about their expected out of pocket costs any more than the EFC did.

The portion of a student's income which will not be assessed will be increased to $9,410 for dependent students and $14,630 for independent students. This significant increase is designed to encourage students to work both during the school year as well as the summer and semester breaks. The qualification to be considered an independent student is also being slightly expanded to include students who are legitimately unable to contact a parent and/or those for whom contacting a parent would pose a risk.

Financial aid officers, starting with the 2023/2024 school year will be able to make adjustments related to costs incurred because of natural disasters, national emergencies, recession, economic downturn, and significant business losses. This should bring some extra assistance to families who need it. They are also going to be unable to have a policy of denying all aid appeals.

Unfortunately, not all the changes are good. At the moment, and until these changes take effect, the parent portion of a family's EFC is divided between the college student children in the family (parents in college aren't included). That means that a family with two kids in college would have the parent contribution split 50/50 between the two children. If the parent contribution is $20,000, $10,000 would be included for student one and $10,000 for student two. The student contribution of each student would make up the rest of their EFC. Once the changes are implemented in 2022, that will no longer happen. The parent portion will NOT be divided. In this example, it would look like this:

NOW: Parent contribution $20,000

Student 1's EFC = 1/2($20,000) + student 1's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

Student 2's EFC = 1/2($20,000) + student 2's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

AFTER October 1, 2022: Parent contribution $20,000

Student 1's EFC = $20,000 + student 1's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

Student 2's EFC = $20,000 + student 2's contribution (as calculated by the formula)

This means that the family's out of pocket costs will literally double and the eligibility for need based aid will not be increased, despite the fact that two of the children will be concurrently in college.

This is a HUGE problem that seriously adversely impacts families with multiple children in college. PLEASE reach out to your senators and representative and ASK FOR A CORRECTION! 

While you're at it, as that the APA, the Asset Protection Allowance be restored. In 2011, a two parent family with the older parent at age 50 would have had $48,800 of their assessed assets not considered in the EFC calculation. This allowance has been steadily decreasing. At the moment, this same couple only has a $7,000 allowance. 

Barring a legislative change, this change will make college financially out of reach for many families, forcing them to choose which of their children to send to college. Strategically, students will need to use AP and CLEP and dual enrollment strategies to lower their college costs and apply to colleges where they will receive massive scholarships. Students should also plan to work, since their income allowance was increased. Those three strategies, well applied, will help families make college educations possible for multiple children.


For more information on Katherine's College Success Program, please visit Celtic College Consultants' website. To schedule a consultation with Katherine to explore how to best implement her College Success Program strategies in your family, click here. Her 2015 - 2020 College Success Program graduates were offered, on average, over $235,000 each in merit scholarships and were accepted by multiple great fit colleges and universities.


83 Ways to Save Money While in College

Some college costs are fixed, like tuition. In other areas, however, there's a lot of room to save quite a bit of money. Here are 83 ways you and your college student can save. 

BOOKS & SUPPLIES

1. Shop around for books.

2. Rent books for non-major courses.

3. Return rented books on time!

4. Use the library's resources.

5. Do NOT buy your supplies at the college bookstore where the prices are high!

6. Get what you need ahead of time.

7. Re-use whatever you can.

8. Use a 3 ring binder, rather than spiral notebooks. Avoid throwing away half used spirals. Only use the notebook paper you actually need.

9. Use campus printers to save on buying one and expensive ink.

10. Take care of your supplies to make them last as long as possible.

11. Sell your notes at the end of the semester.

ROOM & BOARD

11. Live at home, rather than on campus.

12. Buy a rental property and have your student be the property manager.

13. If renting, have one or more roommates. Share the rent, utilities, and the chores.

14. Turn off unneeded lights and appliances, etc. to keep the utility bills down.

15. Limit eating out and ordering in!

16. Batch cook. Make dinner for four or eight then store individual portions for grab and go or quick microwavable meals.

17. Buy in bulk when possible.

18. Eat what is on sale.

19. Consider being an RA to cover your room and board expenses.

20. Get used furniture for your space. Only acquire what you can't live without.

21. Check yard and garage sales as well as swap meets for good furniture for pennies on the dollar.

22. Check Freecycle and Craigslists' free section regularly.

23. Use student discounts every chance you can.

TRANSPORTATION

24. Don't have a car. Save the expense, insurance, gas, parking fees.

25. Use public transportation as your first choice. Uber, etc. is much more expensive.

26. Get a bike and a good lock.

27. Walk wherever you can. Good shoes and a good backpack is much cheaper than a car.

28. Carpool to and from the airport or train station for term breaks.

29. Organize carpools for a small fee.

30. Consider carpooling or taking the bus or train home for break. Use what's cheapest.

31. Ask for and use student discounts every trip.

32. Volunteer rather than go to the beach for Spring break.

33. Use air bnb and youth hostels rather than hotels when traveling.

ENTERTAINMENT & COMMUNICATION

34. Take advantage of on campus entertainment covered by your activities fee.

35. Have a movie night with friends rather than heading to the cinema.

36. Use a prepaid phone plan.

37. Avoid overage fees. Set alerts to help you stay under your plan limits.  

38. Use the college's wifi as much as possible.

39. Use Amazon Prime for students to get free shipping and free entertainment!

40. Ask for and use student discounts everywhere you go. 

41. Don't buy drinks with dinner; the mark up is huge, especially for alcohol.

42. Sign up for local library and parks department event notices and attend the excellent free programs they offer.

GIFTS & HOLIDAYS

43. Write a thoughtful letter (not email) rather than giving a gift. These are even more rare than homemade gifts.

44. Make homemade gifts. Knit or crochet something. Draw a picture. Write a poem. Build something.

45. Give gifts of service. Offer to paint your old bedroom, vacuum your parents' cars, fix, build, or assemble something.

46. Suggest a system that limits how many people you are expected to give gifts to.

47. Bake a cake, muffins, or other special dessert. It is cheaper and tastier than buying one. 

48. Have potluck meal gatherings. Everyone brings something, rather than the host providing everything.

49. Ask for practical items for birthday, Christmas, and holiday gifts.

CLOTHING

50. Upcycle! Buy good quality used clothing. Wear it as is or modify it a little to breathe new life into it.

51. Hang your clothes, rather than drying them. Save on utilities as well as wear and tear on your clothing.

52. Shop clearance. Watch for seasonal sales and take advantage of them. Buy off season.

53. Have a core wardrobe of classic, durable items. 

54. Organize periodic clothing swaps with your friends.

FINANCIAL NEEDS

55. Find a free checking account. If taking student loans, see if that bank or credit union will give you one.

56. Take the free checks offered with new accounts - even if you do "everything" online.

57. Track spending. Stay within your budget AND avoid expensive overdraft fees. EveryDollar.com is a free budgeting and spending tracking program.

58. Avoid credit cards with annual fees. (Your bank or credit union may offer credit cards with favorable terms since you bank with them.)

59. Pay credit card balances on time and in full every month. Interest and late charges quickly make purchase prices double.

60. Start a change jar. Dump your lose change in every night. At the end of the term, cash it in an buy something special.

ELECTRONICS

61. Ask about student discounts when buying a computer.

62. Ask about student discounts on software, too.

63. Get antivirus software to protect your computer and phone.

64. Keep your laptop secure.  Only used closed beverage cups near your computer.

65. Buy a computer that meets your needs. Unneeded features are quite costly. 

66. If you can't use the campus printers and must get your own. Get a basic printer that prints slowly. You don't need glossy photo capabilities for term papers...

67. Upgrade offers on your phone are just enticements to get you to spend more. Don't upgrade your phone until you need to.

68. In states charging sales tax, take advantage of tax free shopping weeks.

69. Comparison shop whenever possible. 

70. Yard and garage sales are great opportunities to socialize with friends and pick up clothing, supplies, and decor very inexpensively.

Check freecyle and the free section of Craigslist regularly. 

HEALTH, FITNESS, & GROOMING

71. Use the student clinic for basic medical needs.

72. Use the college's gym for exercise classes and equipment.

73. Run or walk in the neighborhood or campus gym. Skip the pricey gym membership fees.

74. Don't forget to ask for student discounts for all services.

75. Choose hairstyles that grow out well in order to avoid many upkeep haricuts.

76. Use the local beauty school for discounted haircuts and services.

77. Use groupon for discounted services around campus.

78. Do at-home mani-pedis and skip the expensive salon.

79. Consider a low cost shave club for cheaper razors. 

ACADEMIC HELP

80. Form study groups with your classmates. Go over each other's lecture and text notes. Meet to go through problem sets for STEM classes, too. Tutor each other on the ones you miss.

81. Use the writing center on campus.

82. Use campus provided tutors, as well as TA and professor office hours.

83. If you need to hire a tutor, hire an upperclassman. S/he has a limited budget, too! Barter, if possible. They tutor, you cook, cut hair, help them move, or decorate or clean their apartment, etc.
 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The College Prep Landscape is Changing, Again!

by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS, Founder Celtic College Consultants

Years in the making, today's announcement by the College Board that they are discontinuing the SAT Subject Tests effective immediately, dropping the SAT optional essay after June, and preparing a digital testing modality for the SAT are more signs that the college prep and college admissions worlds are in a phase of metamorphosis. Coming just a couple years before the HS graduation classes start to shrink, today's changes continue to reveal the need for an overhaul of the system.

The College Board will lean on its AP courses and exams more heavily for revenues, alongside the SAT exam. SAT revenues have been shrinking with fewer than half as many test takers in 2020 than previous years, largely due to test site closures due to public health measures effected in response to the pandemic. 

Top students will need to explore and develop additional ways to differentiate themselves from their peers and the long held advantage of the wealthy is not likely to diminish. Summer camps, courses, and programs will likely grow, since they provide many diverse avenues for students to develop and demonstrate various competencies and academic interests, as well as to make connections with well placed recommenders.

Admissions offices will need to continue to revise their evaluative methodologies and processes as more and more applicants turn to these varied methods to demonstrate their worthiness of a place in the next freshman class. The days of calculating an academic score based on GPA, types of courses taken, and a test score or two are clearly numbered. With many colleges and universities adopting test optional or test blind policies this year, an increase in the number making that change permanently has already started to be seen. FairTest.org's data tells that tale quite clearly.

Students, already experienced in adapting to change because of the pandemic, will again have new options to consider while the old begin to fade. For many, these opportunities will enable them to articulate their gifts far more effectively than the very game-able SAT test ever could facilitate. Their creativity, ability to problem solve, lead others, conduct research, give presentations, etc. will be much more easily showcased - and have those demonstrations be given the increased attention they always deserved. While this process is not as cut and dry as a mathematical formula, it is more honest. After all, people are much more complex than a test score could ever show them to be.

Since many colleges have used test scores to validate homeschooled students' courses, the continued shift away from the SAT and ACT raises some questions about how admissions policies for these students will change. The five year old Classic Learning Test (CLT) exam can take up some of the slack but, with the tide going out on all test scores, one wonders how well the CLT will survive, despite its amazing growth in 2020. This part of the shift in admissions policies and practices is yet to be determined and announced.
 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Life Changing Lessons from Failure & Adversity

 by Katherine O'Brien, MA CCPS

Founder, Celtic College Consultants

"If you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn't have gone any other way."

- Quote from a TEDx talk.

 

====

 

In March, 2018, the University of Virginia became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 in the March Madness college basketball finals. If you, like me, don't follow sports, just know that this is bad.  Very bad.

We can only imagine how demoralized the team was. When you are ranked #1 and lose in the first game of the playoffs to the team that just barely qualified for the playoffs, the unthinkable has happpened. You doubt your ability, your coach, your teammates. You are embarrassed and face joke after joke from people around you. The sense of failure must have been overwhelming. This is the kind of event that people tend to follow with a series of bad decisions, like to quit or get drunk or, well, you get the picture. However, after watching a TEDx talk, UVA's basketball coach, Tony Bennett, decided to use that historic loss to his team's benefit.


Over the next year, rather than shying away from talking about the loss, the players and coaches instead talked about it as much as possible. And they didn't simply recount the details and share their pain and start playing the blame game or wallow in self-doubt. No, each time they talked about it, the team talked about what they learned from the loss. This had to be difficult at first. After a failure, especially a public one (and you can't get more public than national television!), we tend to be blind, to resist even the idea that there are lessons to be learned from the loss. Just thinking about it is too painful. However, this was different.

 

What Coach Bennett learned from watching the TEDx talk is that when you tell the story about something bad that's happened, you're not telling the story to change what happened.  You're telling the story to change YOU. When something happens to you, it sits on top of you like a rock. And if you never tell the story, it sits on you forever. The weight of it crushes you, the pain is ever present, as if you were soaking in it. On the other hand, as you begin to tell the story, little by little, you climb out from under that rock and, eventually, you climb up and sit on top of it.

 

The story doesn’t change what happened, but the story has the remarkable power to completely change our whole relationship to what happened."

It worked for UVA's basketball team.  They faced their story - that historic loss in March, 2018.  And when the March Madness tournament rolled around in 2019, they won the championship. They climbed out from under the rock of the historic loss and sat on top of it with the championship.


So this week, think about an adversity you've gone through, face your story, and see how you are changed and made stronger!
 


Here's the TEDx talk that was referenced. With thanks to Scott and his team at Say it with Gratitude.

For more information about Katherine O'Brien and her College Success Program and college prep services, please visit https://www.CelticCollegeConsultants.com

 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

20 Things to Take Care of Before Your Student Leaves for College, Even if They're Staying Home

 

Let's touch on a few practical matters to consider and tend to before they head off (or don't!).  Not all of these will be relevant for every family and many are personal choices.

1. Documents regarding medical records. Once our teens turn 18, their medical information is protected. It's important that your teen set these up for each state (your home state and the state s/he will live in for college): medical proxy or power of attorney. This document allows someone to make medical decisions on his/her behalf in the event s/he cannot make them. In many states, the HIPAA authorization is part of this document. Having a living will is also important for your child (and you!) to give directions for end of life decisions.

2. HIPAA Authorization or HIPAA Release. This document gives permission to healthcare workers to share your information with the people you authorize.

3. Continuing care. For those on medications or seeing counselors, arrange for a continuation of care be fore arriving on campus. Make arrangements for prescriptions and follow up visits. The student health center can be a useful resource to find local professionals who provide the needed services. The student should have a list of prescriptions for any medications, as well as for their glasses or contacts.

4. Medical facilities. Students need to know where the local urgent care and hospital are, along with pharmacies, opticians, and other providers. Check your insurance to find in network providers. Add urgent care phone numbers and addresses in their phone contacts.

5. Insurance cards. Students need to carry their own card(s) for health, dental, and auto insurance cards. While best to have actual cards, having photos of them, front and back, on their phones is another option.

6. Medical history. Students need to know their own history, including vaccinations, surgeries, hospitalizations, allergies, and major injuries and illnesses. If it's complicated, make sure they have a way to access the details, if the need arises.

7. First aid. Have a small first aid kit for their dorm room and/or backpack. Common medications for cold, flu, cuts, etc. should be included. On a related note, for some, the inclusion of sunscreen to avoid and aloe vera to cope with sunburn would be in order.

8. Money. Students need to have ways to access cash, make purchases with a card, and receive paychecks. Have them put locations of no fee ATMs in their phone contacts. Bank routing and account numbers will be needed for direct deposit of paychecks for students who will work while at school. If they are smart, they should arrange a way for parents to transfer funds to their accounts, too.

9. Budget. Sit down with your student and establish a budget for the term, month, week. What will s/he be responsible for? What will you be covering? What happens if something comes up or they spend too much?

10. Social Security Number. Students need to have this number memorized. It will be needed. Teach them to guard it carefully and only give it out when absolutely necessary. Explore identity theft and how thieves get your data so you and your student will know how to protect yourselves.

11. Renter's Insurance. Explore with your student the potential benefits of having it as well as the costs and make a decision about it. Don't forget to decide who will pay for it.

12. Car care. Auto insurance cards will be needed and the company contacted to ensure that everything is in place to cover the student to and from and all around campus. Discuss maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations as well as larger maintenance needs. Again, who will be financially responsible for which of these costs will need to be discussed.

13. Transportation. Discuss ways to get off campus. Is there a transit system? Does your student know how to use it? Do you need to buy a pass or pay with exact fare? What are the other options? Take time to explore and discuss these options with your student. S/he may not remember everything but will have some idea where to start to look when the need arises.

14. Alcohol. Discuss drunk driving and options for getting home if the friend who drove them is not able to drive them home. Have him or her put an ride-sharing app on his or her phone so there are options if needed. Discuss under age drinking, the impact on relationships, and grades.

15. Grades. As an adult, per FERPA, parents do not have access to student grades. (Be aware that FERPA defines all college students as adults, no matter their age.) For some families, this is not a problem since the child freely shares his or her grades. For others, having the student sign the appropriate documents giving parental access to grades.

16. Financial Aid. Again, per FERPA, school officials cannot speak to parents regarding a student's situation. The financial aid office has a form students can sign which gives them permission to discuss the financial side of things with you. Discuss this with your student.

17. Travel. If flying, consider arranging to expedite their way through security checks. Have a discussion and clearly define who is responsible for arranging and paying for flights. Explore together the options for traveling from the airport to campus. Be sure your student has a "real ID" (in many states, it is denoted by a star on the driver's license or state ID card.). If study abroad is part of his or her college plan, be sure to procure a passport well ahead of time.

18. Emergency contacts. Share your contact information with your student's roommate(s). That way, if there is an emergency, they will know how to reach you (and what your names are!) In turn, get theirs, for exactly the same reason.

19. Stay in Touch. Set up a weekly phone call time or some other routine for checking in with your student. Keeping the lines of communication open will help ground a new student while s/he gets settled in a new place and will enable you both to handle unexpected challenges or needs more smoothly. It will also help set boundaries for those (students and parents!) who want to be in touch all the time. Students need roots; they also need wings.

20. If they are staying home. Have a meeting to discuss the new rules. As a college student, their lifestyle will change. If this is their first year of college, work hard with them to help them sort out how online classes are going to work on their campus, how to organize their time, where they can reach out for help. Create some routines and strategies to help everyone cope with the continued stress of isolation. An exercise and prayer routine as well as regular episodes out in the sun are very helpful. While s/he isn't moving out, they are entering a new chapter of life. Together decide what will change and what won't. Having responsibilities around the house is certainly reasonable; s/he will have responsibilities on campus, once it's open. While some things will change, some things will remain the same. Normally, for example, college students have to determine their own sleep time. However, while living at home, consideration needs to be given for all the members of the family. Work with your student to establish boundaries. S/he needs to learn to use time well. They can't be treated like they were as seniors in high school.

21. One more thing. Files. Teach your child what to keep and how to sort their important papers, both those that come in an envelope and those that are online. Medical information and bills, bank statements, tax information, employer information. Track passwords and websites for key accounts, too.

What 350+ Admissions Deans Say They're Looking for from the Class of 2021

This class has had a year like no other. As they apply for college, major questions are on the lips of everyone.

"I couldn't take the SAT or ACT last Spring. Now most of my schools are test optional. How will my application be viewed? Should I try to get a seat at one of the test dates this Fall? What happens if it's canceled, too?"

"How can I show my capabilities without Spring grades or test scores?"

Rising seniors are also missing those leadership activities and summer camps they had worked toward and planned on. Differentiating themselves from the other applicants will be more challenging without them.

Parents and students across the country are concerned. Clearly, this year's applications will look different from those of previous years.

College Admissions Deans Are Well Aware That This Year is DIFFERENT!

Harvard's Graduate School of Education put out a statement endorsed by over 350 admissions deans. (Read it here.)

Here are the top five values they identified:

1. Self-care - "We encourage all students to be gentle with themselves at this time." First and foremost, take care of yourself. It's a stressful time. Students are essential workers. Some have found themselves using their part time job's wages to help pay for the basics for their families. Everyone is disoriented by the many changes everyone is experiencing on an almost daily basis. Be good to yourself. Take walks. Exercise. Rest. Eat healthy foods. Pray. Read. Write a letter to a friend (on paper!) Take vitamins. Take care of a plant or a pet. Journal. Breathe. And, most certainly, don't freak out about application season! Work with a planner or coach, get help and support, allow yourself ample time to write your essays.

2. Academics - "No student will be disadvantaged because of a change in commitments or a change in plans because of this outbreak, their school’s decisions about transcripts, the absence of AP or IB tests, their lack of access to standardized tests..., or their inability to visit campus." They will read your application in context. Use the COVID 19 essay prompt to share the facts of your changed reality so they understand what your world has looked like since March.

3. Service - "What matters to us is whether students’ contribution or service is authentic and meaningful to them and to others, whether that contribution is writing regular notes to frontline workers or checking in with neighbors who are isolated. We will assess these contributions and service in the context of the obstacles students are facing. We also care about what students have learned from their contributions to others about themselves, their communities, and/or their country." While COVID has created many opportunities to serve, not everyone is able to do so. Authenticity, always the key factor in admissions, remains central. Be yourself. Be your best self. Don't do anything to try to impress admissions. Just be you, the real, wonderful, amazing you.

4. Family Contributions - "We view substantial family contributions as very important, and we encourage students to report them in their applications. It will only positively impact the review of their application during this time."  Some students have significant responsibilities at home while others do not. If you do, be sure to include them on your application. So often students don't think they are important or will be valued. They feel like they are at a disadvantage because they can't participate in other activities since they are busy at home. That isn't the case. As an example, I worked with a young man a couple of years ago whose only extracurricular was taking care of his grandmother and his mom. Mom had been taking care of Grandma then got injured at work and needed care. The student was responsible for making sure they were fed and got their medications on time, in addition to taking care of the house and doing all the cooking and the dishes. That's a lot of responsibility for a 16 year old! At my direction, he included it on his application and was accepted at a top honors college.

5. Extracurriculars & Summer Activities - "No student will be disadvantaged for not engaging in extracurricular activities. We also understand that many plans for summer have been impacted by this pandemic, and students will not be disadvantaged for lost possibilities for involvement." When you think about it, this is the only fair response to what's happened. It's such a relief to have them say it publicly, isn't it?

Remember, admissions staff has been working from home and had their lives altered significantly, too. So, keep in mind what is really important. Take good care of yourself. Take care of those you love. Help those you can when and how you can. And be your best self. But don't sweat the small stuff. Your intelligence, creativity, resilience, etc. will shine through, despite the impacts of the pandemic.