Coronavirus poses challenges for college admissions process

Stanford University” width=
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Stanford University’s campus sits largely empty as students have been asked to leave campus housing during the coronavirus pandemic.

With schools from kindergarten to college closing and sending students home to continue studies, students and families alike need to alter their routines and spaces as remote learning becomes, at least for the short term, the norm. Here are a few things you can do to make it easier.

• Make sure you have access to the appropriate tools. You’ll need good internet, an internet-capable device and a place to work. If you don’t have the tools, contact your school for assistance. If you are in position to help, support a classmate.

• Set a schedule. Maintaining a routine will help keep you focused.

• Set up a quiet place for studying and classwork. If you don’t have a separate space available, use headphones and music without lyrics or ocean sounds to create a private space.

• Use video conferencing tools to create study groups. You can also use messaging tools to continue conversations and cloud collaboration tools (Google Docs, Sheets, etc.) to create group deliverables.

There are a number of things students might be missing in person that can be compensated for in the remote process, as well as opportunities to get the jump on things due later in the year.

For college students, coming home after being independent is tough, finding motivation to work remotely can be difficult, and uncertainty about the end of the year and beyond is going to continue for quite some time. This is a good time to check in with your fellow students. Having a study buddy can help in this time of isolation, if you are able to help.

While properly exercising social distancing, step back and do some things outside of class that often students don’t focus on, including preparing or updating your resume, looking for opportunities for remote research and looking for summer work or internships. If you are considering a master’s program, now may be the time to start researching them.

Choosing without a visit

For current high school students who were planning to visit college campuses over spring break, empty campuses and canceled information sessions/tours and admitted students’ days will create challenges in determining whether a college is a good fit. Following are some suggestions for deciding whether a specific campus is right for you, if you are not able to visit in person:

• Take a virtual tour. Check the college website or use a third party such as CampusReel, YouVisit or It’s Nacho.

• Use sites like to get students’ impressions.

• Check college websites for webinars or live chats to speak with admissions and faculty.

• Contact your admissions counselor to see if he or she can connect you with a student or faculty member in your major to speak with about the experience.

• Join the college’s social media sites and ask questions.

• Reach out to your social network to see if someone can connect you with a student attending that campus.

• Search out and apply for scholarships.

If you are still unable to make a final decision without seeing a campus, contact your admissions representative to see if he or she will allow you to make that commitment past May 1. Some schools are starting to change commitment day to June 1.

While waiting to make your final decision, there is legal paperwork to complete to ensure your success as an independent adult.

A full description of those tasks can be found at

Current high school juniors also may be concerned about demonstrating interest to colleges that track and cancellation of SAT/ACT testing. There is still a lot of chaos around standard testing.

ACT has canceled its April 4 test date and has rescheduled all student testing to June 13.

Here are some ways to deal with the challenges, in addition to connecting with colleges:

• Visit the website and research programs. If you are interested, look for the college interest form and register.

• Look at test-optional schools. There are currently more than 1,000 schools in the U.S. that are fully or partially test-optional.

• Use the extra time to self-study for your chosen testing – SAT or ACT. Rising seniors will likely have until at least December to test.

Head start

If your extracurricular activities are postponed or canceled, now is the time to get a jump-start on the admissions process.

• The Common App is keeping the same personal statement questions, so start on your thoughtful common app essay. Prompts can be found at

• The UC system has indicated it is “unlikely” it will change its personal insight questions, so get a head start at admission. Visit

• Work on getting your resume (aka the activities on the applications) down to 150 characters or less, and focused on your accomplishments and tasks for applications. Make it more complete for summer jobs or attaching to scholarship applications.

• Apply for summer jobs.

• Consider taking community college summer classes.

Hollis Bischoff is college admissions adviser for Strategies 4 Admission LLC. For more information, email [email protected].

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos