Our goal is to support you through the wrinkle of this journey and make the most of the challenges we face. With everything that has happened this past week, I would like to share our thoughts on the following developments and topics:
The College Board announced that it will offer AP exams online. These tests will be 45 minutes long and tests will include material covered at most schools by the beginning of March. As we wrote in our previous email, AP scores are not a factor for admission. Do your best on these exams to earn college credit. We have told students that if signed up for these exams, take them. There is no downside. You do not have to report scores you are not proud of. The College Board should be releasing additional information about these exams in the coming week(s). If you have additional questions, please contact your high school teachers or test prep tutors.
IB Exams will not be offered this year. We know this is disappointing for students who seek to use their tests for college credits, but that decision is completely out of your control.
SAT/ SAT Subject Tests / ACT
As mentioned last week, the SAT, SAT Subject Tests and ACT have both been cancelled through May. Whether the tests are offered in June and beyond is an open question. If you are planning on taking the June or July SAT/ACT tests, please sign up ASAP. Test center options are limited and test dates will fill up quickly. As soon as we learn more, we will inform you.
Many are asking whether the SAT or ACT will be required next year. We do not yet know how these tests will be factored into the application process for most schools. Some schools have already transitioned to a “test-optional” policy for next year including Case Western and Chapman. MIT recently dropped its requirement for SAT Subject Tests. MIT will not even accept them next year. There has been discussion among the UCs to go test-optional as well.
We anticipate colleges to place more weight on applicants’ transcripts because the entrance exams are not currently being offered and may not be offered in time for the next application cycle. That said, we think strong college entrance scores can improve one’s odds of admission even if no longer required. If you are looking to begin prepping for the SAT or ACT, or improve your current scores, you can work with tutors remotely or independently with prep books. We are happy to create a test plan for you and provide recommendations for tutors and independent prep materials.
We are unsure of the long-term effects of COVID 19 on the college admissions process, but believe that a bigger emphasis will be placed on an applicant’s grades over test scores for the 2020-2021 cycle. Grades remain in an applicant’s control even through remote learning. Please take stock of your current academic progress and determine if there are any ways to improve your grades, if needed. This is not about being “Straight A or Bust”, but rather an opportunity to reinforce that we want every student to do his or her best and focus on what is in their control. If you would like to discuss plans for contacting your teachers or improving current grades, please let us know.
Continue to look for opportunities to serve others from a safe distance. We are encouraging every student who has time to focus on their “wow factors”. Whether it is writing a children’s book, tutoring younger kids online, creating a YouTube channel or blog, or selling something you create for a cause, every student is living in a world where they can do something to help. Life will reward those that are able to use their ingenuity and creativity to make an impact.
In general, we do not think fundraising carries the same weight as doing something that requires a student to roll up his or her sleeves and get their hands dirty. Especially in communities like where we live, they often raise questions about who is bankrolling the donations. Please focus on opportunities that require students, even from home, to demonstrate grit, leadership, and passion.
We have received many questions about opportunities to continue learning with a reduced school load. Courses taken for enrichment may not appear on the high school transcript or be considered for admission purposes. We do not think AP classes offered by pay-to-play test prep centers will be given the same weight as classes offered by community colleges or high schools.
If interested in a way to demonstrate interest in a particular field, consider taking an online course this summer through a community college. These courses can be submitted to colleges and depending on your high school’s policy, show up on an official high school transcript. If interested in a particular niche, consider free course sites like Coursera for classes on topics like abnormal psychology and constitutional law.
We are encouraging students to develop backup plans for their summers in case the disruptions we face are prolonged. Ideas for summer include wow factors, online social media marketing gigs for parents’ or friends companies and online community college classes. These pursuits demonstrate a commitment to passion development and resilience. We are in uncharted territory and believe the best course of action is to make the most of this situation.
Book Recommendation of the Week
Each week, I will be providing a recommendation for a different book for the entire family to read. Like I mentioned last week, avid readers become great writers. But beyond developing stronger writing skills for college and career, reading provides perspective, which is something we all need at the moment.
One of my favorite books I read this past year is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows a young French girl and German soldier trapped in the Allied siege of St. Malo during World War II. The war scenes are gripping and the relationships are heartwarming. This book shows the power of people to band together and how small acts of kindness can profoundly change others’ lives. It also serves as a powerful reminder that while what we face is a challenge, we are able to do so from the comfort of home with Netflix, Snapchat, and Postmates.
Our office remains closed but we are meeting with students virtually. As always, we are here to help you make the most of your journeys to college. Please contact Meredith Stenta to schedule or reschedule any appointments. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. We are responding to texts and calls as well. Our office phone number is 949-933-6086.
Closing Note: Encouraging Positivity and Responsible Behavior
None of us are happy to be going through this, but it is my hope that every one of our students can learn and grow from this experience. This scenario has taught us the profound impact our actions have on our neighbors and communities. Teenagers may feel infallible at times (I did in high school and college), but this is an incredible teaching opportunity to understand how we affect those around us.
Yes, it is a bummer that prom has been cancelled and it is a challenge to pick a college without being able to step foot on campus. However, there is a lot to be thankful for--our health, families, and opportunities to grow. Let’s be creative and make the most of what we face while flattening the infection curve.
I was asked today during a session what excited me today, and that question moved me. There is a lot to be excited about. For me, it was starting a new book (American Pastoral by Philip Roth if anyone wants to read it with me). I also discovered after buying food to cook that I do not own a single pot or pan to cook with which means I have to go to the store (I guess I am a typical millennial after all). I am going to be asking students in every session to tell me something good, interesting, or exciting because if we are mindful of what surrounds us, I am sure all of us can find plenty to appreciate.
COVID-19 and the unprecedented public health challenges it poses has upended all of our lives. Our top concern is everyone’s health. Given the enormous change it poses to our students’ growth and wellbeing, we would like to share our thoughts and perspective. We hope to address your concerns to the best of our ability, but with a lot of things occurring right now, your guess is as good as ours.
Few of us have ever experienced something like this and this poses an incredible challenge to our lives.
Given that school pressures have lessened, consider this an opportunity to learn, grow, be creative, and stay true to yourselves. When colleges or future employers evaluate an application, they are assessing grit and an ability to overcome obstacles. If a dream program or opportunity was cancelled, find the best substitute that you can. Life rewards rolling with the punches and making the most of any situation. In the coming week, we will be putting together lists of online opportunities like coding classes, writing programs, and other enrichment activities for students interested in making the most of their downtime. Throughout this ordeal, stay positive, and keep learning and contributing, because this will provide you with perspective for this process and later in life.
Explore academic and career interests
The first question I ask every student is: “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”. This is a great time to explore career paths online (i.e. watch YouTube videos about the day in the life of different professions, read career blogs and other sites, etc.).
Reading helps you develop your own voices by exposing yourself to others. Not only does it help with reading comprehension for the SAT/ACT and writing college essays, but it enhances one’s ability to communicate, which is critical for any career path you embark upon. If you need recommendations for what to read, please ask us. We will be creating a list of book recommendations from our team shortly.
This is a great time to stay apprised of the news. Challenges create opportunities and understanding public health issues, economic risks, and other consequences from what we are dealing with can enhance one’s ability to navigate this ever-changing world.
12th Grader Specific Concerns
We know this was supposed to be your time for a victory lap and, for that, we are truly sorry. Second semester senior year is probably the only time many of our students are afforded to relax and enjoy high school. We hope you are able to do so at home.
Question: How will I pick a college to attend if I can’t visit it?
Answer: It is hard to commit to a place you haven’t visited. While schools are closed and travel bans are being contemplated, please consider taking an online tour of the colleges you have been admitted to. You can get a great sense of what a campus feels like 24/7 from home. Feel free to reach out to like-minded peers attending the colleges you are considering. If you need an introduction to a student at a particular college, we can check to see if we have worked with anyone in the past that may be a good fit for your family to speak with. We are also happy to share with you what we know about the schools you are interested in.
Question: Can I contact the college admissions offices for more information?
Answer: We are under the impression that most, if not all, college admissions offices are closed. If you need to speak to an admissions officer about deposit deadlines and arrangements, emailing your assigned officer may be the best way to communicate with them. Check for contact information in any correspondence you have received, through your applicant portal, or on the admissions office websites.
Question: What should I be doing right now?
Answer: Focus on what is under your control.
The world still remains at your fingertips and as school and activities are cancelled, please focus on the aspects of life that you are able to exert influence or control over.
Testing and Test Prep
The ACT has been cancelled for April and May. Whether the tests will be offered in June or July is subject to change. We do not know what will happen in the months to come. If you were planning on taking either the SAT or ACT in the coming month, we strongly recommend signing up for the June and July test dates NOW. The ACT is being offered for the first time in California in July with only one test site in the whole county. It will fill up, especially if prior dates are cancelled. Please reserve your spots now for summer test dates when the pandemic is expected to subside.
AP Scores: AP scores are used for college credit, and are not a factor for college admission. Do not stress if you cannot take an AP exam. We are happy to discuss which subject tests are appropriate for you based on your coursework (these actually help you earn admission).
The hardest balancing act to achieve in this entire process is finding time for studying for the SAT/ACT and fulfilling school and extracurricular activity obligations. With additional free time, consider jumpstarting or doubling down on test prep. Effective test prep is sticky and test prep completed now will make a difference for a test in June or July. We have heard that tutors are offering virtual sessions to their students. If you would like to discuss your test prep plan, please let us know.
Our goal is for every student to develop their passions and harness them to make a difference in their communities. Why? We want you to be a leader for college and your career.
At a loss for what to do right now? Consider helping high-risk neighbors (elderly, etc.) with food deliveries and other projects to reduce their risk. Organize your peers or neighbors to be kind and caring for those in need. You will be asked when you write your essays, what have you done to make your community a better place. We hope you take this opportunity to do so, not just for college, but because it is the right thing to do.
Interested in writing a children’s book about the importance of washing your hands or social distancing? You can. From home. Continue to grow and contribute. This is time to show colleges what you are made of while supporting your community.
For many, we have discussed touring potential Early Decision options. As schools have shut down, these are no longer available. Please consider taking a tour in August if they are offered then. If they are not available, we can discuss an ED strategy at that time.
We are unsure what will be offered this summer. If in doubt, contact the program or organization directly but answers may not be available for a while.
School and Activity Closures
They affect everyone in the world, so they will not disproportionately affect any particular applicant more than anyone else.
Our Office Logistics
Beginning on Tuesday, March 17th, we will be conducting all meetings virtually through FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts or the phone. We want everyone to be safe and reduce the risk of transmission to vulnerable populations. Given that school is cancelled, we may ask to reschedule late evening appointments to earlier in the day.
We are here to support your journey, as uncertain as it may feel at times. We are looking forward to banding together in support of our community as we find ways for you to thrive.
To your health and happiness!
Greg and the Kaplan Educational Team
As the college admissions process becomes more competitive with each passing year, the cost of attending these universities is becoming increasingly prohibitive for families. For Juniors, it is not too early to start researching scholarships. It is also important to determine whether you qualify for needs-based financial aid, which you will apply for through FAFSA and/or CSS in early Fall. For Seniors, it is not too late to apply for merit-based scholarships through outside organizations.