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  • Writer's pictureAllison Styffe

What we know about college applications this year

The college application process this year will be unlike any other. While there are many unknowns that remain, and unforeseen changes that will pop up along the way, we're here to share a few things we do know so far —

We know that college fairs won't be happening in person.

Let's face it — a jam-packed gymnasium with crowds of students, college booths, and admissions reps is not an option this year. College fairs as we knew them are a thing of the past (and hopefully the future!), but they're not cancelled. For the fall of 2020 they will be held online, and even in a virtual setting these events will be a great way to learn about schools and programs that you might not encounter otherwise:

Check out schools and programs around the PNW from September 15-December 31. Live webinars and state-focused weeks will be offered along the way, including: Oregon College Week: October 5-9 | Washington College Week: October 19-23 | Alaska & Idaho College Week: October 26-30

Interested in venturing a little farther? Learn more about colleges across the country through this resource. Register for one of the following dates: September 13, October 12, October 18, or November 8.

In addition, Baker will be hosting college presentations on Fridays at 10am this fall via Zoom, where our students can speak directly to admissions counselors from schools across the state and country. Check out our College/Career Calendar to stay updated on which schools will be presenting and when!

We know that many schools are going test-optional.

Prior to COVID-19, a hand full of colleges, including Oregon's public schools, already started moving to a test-optional stance when it came to the SAT/ACT. Now that testing dates and locations are limited due to social distancing measures, more and more colleges are doing the same. And as of this month, a judge ruled that the University of California system can no longer use test scores for admissions at all.

Nevertheless, we encourage students who are willing and able to take the SAT or ACT if possible this year. Why? Because scores will likely still be reviewed and even required by some colleges, not to mention the fact that some scholarships are still dependent on them. Of course, if you do plan to take an entrance exam, be sure to keep a flexible mindset — they may be cancelled, postponed, or relocated for public health purposes.

We know that extracurriculars are more important than ever.

"But they're all cancelled!" you might be thinking. And you'd be a way. Many extracurriculars aren't happening this year — sports, clubs, all the traditional things. But if you think that means colleges won't be expecting to see activities on your application this year, now that's where you'd be wrong. If anything, admissions will place an extra emphasis on your activity resume for two reasons:

(1) Without using the SAT/ACT, some schools will have less criteria to assess applications, which makes things like your GPA, essays, and — you guessed it — extracurriculars all the more important.

(2) Colleges are looking for qualities like adaptability and grit, and what better way to demonstrate those attributes than by pursuing productive ways to spend your time during a pandemic.

So instead of your usual on-campus activities, consider applying for a job or committing to volunteer work. Reach out to local businesses and organizations to see if they could use an extra hand during this difficult time. Search for internships you can do remotely. Find online certificate programs that align with your interests. While the options may be a bit limited, they're certainly still out there!

We know that new application elements will pop up.

For the first time in decades, colleges have to get creative as they evaluate applicants. After all, two of their main criteria — GPA (especially junior year grades) and standardized test scores — aren't on the table, and each school is bringing in different elements to replace them. In a recent article, NPR summarizes a few examples of things you might see:

  • This year's common app includes a new, optional question: how as COVID-19 impacted you? This is the only question whose answer should focus on the pandemic's affects on your life, though, so use those 250 words wisely.

  • At least one college has implemented impromptu video Q&A's. When the app flashes a question (e.g. "If you had no Internet or phone for the afternoon, what would you do?") students have 30 seconds to think, and two minutes to answer, as the app video records the whole thing.

  • Zoom interviews will become a more prevalent application option. A year ago, students could schedule an interview with college admissions offices during their campus visits or preview days. With the downfall of in-person opportunities, though, comes the uprising of Zoom, and now interviews are more accessible to all!

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