We Need to Adjust Our Timelines: Regular College Planning Advice Doesn’t Work Right Now
<![CDATA[Ugh! I like to plan ahead. I want to follow though on plans I’ve made. The coronavirus has made this impossible. Approaching this summer and next fall with the same timeline and college planning strategies we are used to simply won’t work. We need to continue to adjust and develop flexible plans to meet college admissions goals through the next school year. I will offer some specific suggestions at the end of this article. For those who are already frustrated and want to skip an analysis of the problem, you can scroll down to the action steps at the end. A Quick Analogy College admissions operates on a predictable timetable. Students meet designated milestones at specific times and the end result is a graduating senior heading off to college in the fall. Our predictable timetable has been smashed. Here’s my best analogy— college admissions is like a river. Students flow down this river, eventually arriving at the end. Some parts of the river are calm and slow moving. These parts, like 9th and 10th grades, allow students to make progress academically, socially, and extracurricularly, but there is time to look ahead and adjust course. Then the river speeds up. You find yourself navigating fast moving waters where you need to actively paddle to avoid hazards. This spring’s coronavirus situation was the unexpected rockslide that has dropped huge boulders blocking the flow of our river. Students can no longer move down the traditional path. Those who were navigating the standardized testing rapids are stuck. Students haven’t been able to visit college campuses. The water in our river is building up. And we all feel the pressure. When we are able to clear the blockage in the river, there will a rush of water. It has the potential to flood everything downstream. Student back in the slow moving waters of 9th or 10th grade may make it through these times with little disruption to their overall college planning. Yes, summer opportunities may be lost, the opportunity to compete in that spring tournament is gone, but they still have plenty of time to adjust before they reach the rapids. Next year’s juniors and seniors will have to make some adjustments. The course of the river is not what it was before the rockslide. A Glimpse at the Problem I am not going to list all the things that are not normal about college planning this year. Instead, I will give you a quick glimpse into one aspect— standardized testing. A few months ago, College Board canceled the May and June SAT and the ACT canceled the April exam. ACT did not cancel the June test, leaving it up to individual schools and districts. This gave me hope. Maybe some of my students who were preparing for the April ACT could finally test. I set up a make-up date for my one day ACT Crash Course and started contacting students. Then a couple clients replied that their school has canceled the June ACT. Darn it! I asked around and students who are signed up to take the test through some of the bigger school districts in my area haven’t heard anything. Lots of emails, calls, and texts and a week later— still no word. Many clients received emails just this morning notifying them that their test centers will not be giving the June 13 ACT. I get discouraged because it doesn’t make sense for my students to put in time and effort preparing for the June exam if their test site is going to cancel. (These tests are hard enough without all the uncertainty!) Like the rollercoaster of emotion most of us have been riding this spring, I start to get my hopes up once again— the College Board plans to open registration for fall SAT dates on May 28 giving rising seniors priority to register for August, September, and October tests. Juniors could register for November and December. Great! My students can start planning! Well. . . Not really. Students who were able to login found very limited test sites, sometimes 50 miles or more from their homes. And the College Board website wasn’t ready for the rush to register. Many students who tried to login found the site down yesterday. (Anyone who had technical difficulties during AP exams can insert their own comments on the College Board’s website and system here!) This is just a small glimpse into the problems we are facing this year. It is frustrating and stressful for families trying to plan. Why Conventional Wisdom Won’t Work Our system is not ready to handle the rush of students trying to follow the traditional planning schedule. (Imagine the rush of built-up water flooding the river in my analogy.) First, while some of our schools have a plan for what next fall will look like, there is still a lot of uncertainty. This may explain why many campuses have not signed on to host national test dates for the SAT. Next, students cannot cram everything they missed over a six month period into next fall. The SAT and ACT can’t accommodate four test dates worth of student in one or two fall exams. Colleges can’t welcome all students who missed campus visit, especially as they are trying to limit potential points of transmission on campus to protect their students. Some mile markers in the river of high school can’t be revisited. If this happened my daughter’s junior year, she would have missed
- Placing 4th in the state tournament for Informative Speaking
- Attending the National Speech Debate Assoc. National Tournament
- A summer psychology institute where she really fell in love with the science of what is now her major
- Multiple campus visits, including all of the out-of-state schools to which she applied
- And a handful of other leadership and achievement opportunities.