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What Colleges Look For

What Hasn't Changed This Fall

Picture of Annie Behari
By Annie Behari on July, 30 2020 | 4 minute read

Seniors, what’s still in your control?! You’re probably thinking that you are doomed. After all, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic that has severely affected our country in particular. There are also a lot of other things going on: a reckoning regarding race and identity, a divisive election coming up in November, and general anxiety about what the rest of the year will look like.

At Collegewise, we always focus on what you can control. Otherwise, you waste a lot of energy that you should be using somewhere else. So, this fall, here are the things that are still in your control:

Fall grades

Even though application deadlines are usually between October and January, you are still expected to share first semester grades with all of the colleges you applied to. Surprised? You shouldn’t be; colleges need to know that you’re not slacking off during your senior year. Colleges use these grades to help better understand your growth as a student, especially one about to enter college. This year, though, because of your disrupted junior year, these first semester grades are more important than ever. Due to the impact of COVID-19, your junior year might not be an accurate measure of who you are as a student. This is especially true if your school went pass/fail or credit/no credit. Your first semester grades senior year will help tell a more thorough story. Whether you’ll be in classes at school or online this fall, take senior year seriously. (And, yes, colleges will ask to see grades from the second semester of senior year, too!)


Last month, Princeton University announced it was getting rid of its Single Choice Early Action program this year and keeping Regular Decision as its only application round. It’s likely that we‘ll see more movement with regards to application deadlines as the fall approaches and COVID-19 impacts test sittings, school openings, and even state openings. No matter what, colleges and universities will adjust deadlines accordingly to accommodate students.

Here’s what won’t change: you are applying to college this fall. That might be in October or it might be in January, but you are applying. That means that when applications open on August 1, you should prepare your applications and write your essays as though nothing has changed, because this part hasn’t. Be prepared for announcements that alter deadlines or decision rounds, though. That will require some dexterity and adaptability on your part, which I know isn’t ideal, but that’s the only way to maintain your sanity in such an unpredictable year. Get your applications ready and be flexible. No matter what happens to deadlines, remember to submit your application anytime earlier than an hour before it’s due in order to avoid technical trouble. (And it will happen—trust.) There are enough obstacles to contend with this year; you don’t want to create another one.

Demonstrating Interest

You might not have been able to visit some of the colleges on your list before COVID-19 forced us into a lockdown. That’s okay, because there are lots of ways to demonstrate your interest in a college. Take a look at American University’s visit page—you can get a sense from just looking at it that demonstrated interest is important to them, and they’ve made it accessible to you in every way possible. For every college on your list, make sure you are demonstrating interest however you can: signing up for mailing lists, participating in virtual webinars or information sessions, or taking virtual tours. Send emails and attend discussions with admissions folks. This is the time of year when colleges usually host hundreds of visitors a day, so they are creating the programming to allow you to “meet” them. Take advantage of it.

Stop worrying

I know that probably feels impossible now. Trust me, I can worry with the best of ‘em. 2020, though, has shown all of us what the most important things are: our health and safety, and the health and safety of the people around us. The importance of testing has fallen to the wayside, with so many colleges opting to go test-optional—so how important was it, really, from the start? Don’t spend your energy worrying about things that are not just out of your control, but are not as important as you thought they were. This is a great time to set your priorities and live by them as we weather the rest of the year.


About Us: With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools include counselingtest prepacademic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, leading to a 4x higher than average admissions rates. 


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