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What about the 2021 grads?

It seems all the focus has been on the seniors — no prom, no graduation and unsettling news for the fall at college. These are all very real concerns and shouldn’t be minimized, however, high school juniors — soon to be rising seniors, have a completely different set of challenges.

Juniors lost the better part of their second semester. In addition to navigating AP US History online, juniors unwillingly lost most of their opportunities to set themselves apart as they were quarantined at home. For many, that meant no sports, i.e., no regional or state championships; no debate tournaments, no fundraisers, no newspaper issues, no student government, no jobs and no community service. It also meant no standardized testing. One shred of good news is that it leveled the playing field – i.e., nobody else had any opportunities to do those things either.

But junior year is pivotal for many students, it’s often when they get to demonstrate their leadership training and skills, when they perform their best at competitions and of course, when they typically visits colleges. Watching a video may work well for a number of students, but getting the “vibe” of being on a college campus; seeing the swirl of activity between classes, listening to an impromptu performance of  A Capella singers and even eating in the dining hall simply can’t be done virtually.

So……….. what’s a junior to do?

1. Do your best to maintain your extracurricular activities 

A lot of clubs and even sports are continuing to meet virtually.  If you play an instrument, you can still practice – you can even contact an assisted living facility and see if you can do a Zoom performance for the residents. There is no doubt it is all more challenging, but please don’t give up and play video games for the next several months. Colleges will be flexible in how they are looking at the resumes of juniors, but the students who “rise to the occasion” and create something or continue following their passion will be more interesting applicants.

2.  Stay updated on what’s happening with the SAT and ACT

While testing dates for March, April and May were cancelled for the SAT and ACT, the summer administrations of both tests have not yet been cancelled.  I’d recommend registering for these dates quickly. There is a tremendous pent up demand and preference will be given to juniors.

To stay up to date with the changing plans for the SAT and the ACT, please refer to the following links:

3. Prep for the standardized tests  

Online or zoom test prep opportunities are everywhere. Check out the free opportunities at test prep sites to take a SAT/ACT diagnostic that will help you determine which test is best for you. I don’t recommend prepping for both tests. Take advantage of having a little more free time by prepping for the one test where you believe you have the best opportunity to improve your score.  Remember that the ACT is allowing single-section testing beginning in September.

4. Do your Due Diligence – visit virtually

While you will not be able visit colleges in person to get a sense of their diverse cultures, there are other ways that you can learn more about the schools to which you may ultimately decide to apply.  Colleges are putting extensive virtual tours on their websites so that students can get an in-depth look at what each school has to offer. Find a virtual information session with an admission officer for the colleges where you’re especially interested. Use online search tools to start shaping your college list. In addition to going directly to each college’s website, there are some amazing resources out there with student reviews. Check out www.induck.co; www.unigo.com and www.colleges.niche.com.

5.  Be creative when thinking about your summer plans 

While your awesome summer plans for travel, community service academic programs on college campuses, research and more may have been cancelled, there are a variety of ways to stay busy, make a contribution and learn. deadlines for many summer programs have already passed, this would be a great time to research possible opportunities for the summer.

My most treasured mantra, just ask my kids,  is “This too will pass”  or TTWP as we say. Think about what you’d like to tell your children about how you handled this challenge. Then do something about it.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com