• Cara Parker

How High School Juniors Can Experience the College Process During COVID-19

Updated: Apr 5

Juniors....


This spring you were supposed to attend college open houses. You were expecting to spend your free weekends and April vacation touring colleges. You may have even planned a regional tour for late June to check out some campuses.


And now, it all seems so up in the air.



What about your GPA? What about those tours and interviews? What about the SATs? How can you demonstrate interest? There are so many questions that you have. You are worried.


Christine Bryan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Erin Keene-Crouse, Senior Director of Orientation and Enrollment Events at UMass Lowell want to remind you that everyone is in the same situation.


"We are all in this together," Bryan said. "This is something that is stretching out across the country and we are going to see its effect for four years."



So while it might feel like your grade, your school, your town, or your state may be the only one affected, this school shutdown is something that is affecting everyone. Colleges and universities know this.


So, what do you need to know?



Virtual Tours and Sessions

With colleges no longer able to give tours and host open houses, the first place to start is the website. UMass Lowell has had a virtual tour in place for a few years, but some schools are working hard right now to get one on their website. "If there's a college that you are interested in, and they don't have a virtual tour, yet, give them a call. Chances are, it will be up soon," Bryan explained. Many schools, including UML are also now offering virtual information sessions, which are a great way to express interest while also getting to know more about a school that you had hoped to visit. Bryan added, "Schools are doing lots of new and innovative things" to connect with prospective students.


Demonstrated Interest

UML does not keep analytics to determine student interest (ie. number of visits to website, number of email clicks), but some schools do. This is the time to take advantage of what the school offers. Read through the website. Follow social media and engage by interacting with the posts. Read the stories. Comment on facebook posts. Watch Live videos. Look for admissions offices to do Q&A sessions. In addition to showing interest (if they track that) you get to know more about what the college feels is important and it helps you understand more about the community. "Schools want you to get to know them," Keene-Crouse and Bryan said.


GPA

There's a lot of panic out there about GPA. Many high schools are switching to a pass/ fail or credit/ no credit system. Some schools are only counting the full term that had been completed prior to the shut-down while others are counting class averages up to the day that school closed.


Keene-Crouse and Bryan explained that every school is different in how they calculate GPAs and every guidance department sends along a profile with the school transcript. That profile explains how GPAs are calculated, and they expect that the COVID-19 school closure policies and procedures around grading will be included. Because every school's grading system is different, each applicant's GPA gets recalculated as part of the admissions process, and procedures will be in place regarding grades from this spring. Admissions offices work within state guidelines from the Department of Higher Education and will continue to do so. "We are not going to penalize students because school was shut down," they explained.


SATs and ACTs

UMass Lowell was the first Massachusetts state school to offer a no-test option during the admissions process. Several other colleges have already announced that they will offer this in the fall and it is believed that other schools may follow suit. If you are not sure what your schools of interest will do, it is best to give them a call.


Financial Aid

Some families' financial situations may undergo a drastic change in 2020. If that is the case, reach out to the school. While the FAFSA will be based on 2019 tax returns, schools have an appeal process that can be accessed.


Seniors Deferring

At this time, UML has not seen a significant amount of deferments for the incoming freshman class. Bryan and Keene-Crouse believe, however, that schools may see a shift. Some students may choose to transfer to a school closer to home. Other students may decide to consider online education. But as stated earlier, this situation is affecting the entire country. "We don't know what is going to happen," Bryan said, "and we may have to wait a little bit." As changes at the government level keep coming, colleges and universities know that they need to be flexible and work with families.


Advice

Bryan and Keene-Crouse explain that there is no perfect map for schools to follow. Every school is different. "Someone's experience this year in admissions may look a lot different for next year's applicants," Bryan says.



They encourage you to do your research with the school. If you're not sure, pick up the phone and call and ask. Schools want students to reach out and they want to work with students. (In other words, get your information from the source, and not a facebook moms' group-- CP).


Finally, they advise that juniors need to take a deep breath. Juniors have more time to look at websites and consider schools that might not have been on "the list" before. They can research different majors and see what kinds of career opportunities those majors might lead to. Students can interact with social media posts and webinars.


Instead of seeing the shutdown as an obstacle, see it as an opportunity.





To learn more about UMass Lowell, visit www.uml.edu.

To learn about senior portraits with Cara, click here.