College planning and COVID-19


Here’s a summary of some college planning activities that have changed because of Coronavirus and how you might respond:

  • SAT and ACT – A number of SAT and ACT test dates have been cancelled. So far, the College Board has added a September 26 test date. Some additional colleges have announced they will be test optional.
  • AP – The scope of both the AP classes and exams have been reduced. There is a new at-home testing option.
  • College visits – Most colleges switched to virtual visits and information sessions. Attend virtual visits and information sessions, communicate with admissions personnel to get your questions answered, look at college videos online, read student feedback on sites like unigo.com and niche.com, read online versions of the college newspaper, talk with current students or recent graduates, and follow the college’s social media to get a better feel for the colleges you are considering. Be looking for changes in college visit policies. Come colleges are planning to switch to in-person campus visits starting in June (many of these will be of one family at a time and limited to outside spaces at their college.
  • Deposit date – Some colleges extended their deposit dates from May 1st, often to June 1st for 2020. The extra time may help students learn more about the college, determine if they can still afford the college, and appeal the financial aid where there has been a significant change in family income and/or assets due to Coronavirus.
  • Summer activities – Summer plans (e.g., jobs, summer classes, volunteer activities, travel) for many high school students have or will be cancelled. Plan meaningful alternate activities. There are a lot of things you can do from home. For instance, you can take a free or low cost online class on Coursera, Udacity or edX, learn a foreign language on Duolingo.com, practice a foreign language in Language Bird’s Chirp Room™ Chat or volunteer from home.
  • Extracurricular activities – Many extracurricular activities have been cancelled this spring and/or will be cancelled in the fall. See if you can move your activity online (e.g., via Zoom) or pursue your passion in an alternate way. You may want to explain extracurricular activity changes that were out-of-your-control in your college applications.
  • Online classes – Many classes have moved online. It is likely that in some areas of the country, high school and/or college classes will be online or hybrid (i.e., partially online and partially in-person) in the Fall.
  • Grading – Many schools are switching from letter or numerical grades to Pass/Fail or Credit/No-credit grades. When you have a choice, consider how this will impact you (e.g., college or grad school admissions or merit aid).
  • Finances – Families may have fewer resources available for college funding because of the loss of job or an illness/death in family. Appeal your financial aid package, if your family’s financial situation changes significantly.


I am working with high school sophomores and juniors on college selection and applications remotely through Skype. Contact me at rana@slosbergcollegesolutions.com to schedule an appointment.

Will I get accepted to my dream college?

Princeton University (photo by Rana Slosberg)

High school students often worry whether they will get into their first choice college or university. One way to assess their chance for admission is to use Naviance scattergrams as described in this Forbes article.

Here are three additional considerations when using Naviance scattergrams. If:

  • Very few or no students from your high school have attended the college you are interested in, there won’t be a scattergram for you to use. Don’t let that discourage you from applying. You can still assess your chances for admission by looking at data like acceptance rate, GPA distribution, and mid-50% ACT or SAT scores of accepted students. This data is generally available on the college’s website and/or or college search sites like the College Board’s Big Future (which includes it under the “Applying” tab for each college).

  • There is a Naviance scattergram with only a few points, the scattergram will be less reliable than if many students from your high school had applied to this college. You may want to use the techniques listed in 1. to better assess your chance for acceptance.

  • The college you are looking for has an acceptance rate of less than a third, the college will most likely be a reach school.

The Changing SAT and ACT Landscape

Here are the highlights of a recent HECA webinar on testing by Jed Applerouth, founder of Applerouth Tutoring Services
SAT changes: The SAT is morphing into an ACT.  It has been changing from an aptitude test to an achievement test.  In 2016, it will undergo a major shift.  It will:
  • Drop sentence completion
  • Add more difficult math
  • Eliminate calculator use for one math section
  • Include grammar questions in the context of paragraphs
  • Add science tables, charts and graphs to verbal and math sections
  • Include evidence-based essays
  • Eliminate questions that are not aligned with the Common Core standards
  • Allow more time per question.
The math will include new topics including trigonometry, radians, equations of a circle, and congruence theorems.  There will be less geometry and there will be more algebra, requiring a deeper understanding of equations. 
Students will have twice as much time for the new essay.  “[The] essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade his audience.”
The current SAT allows more time per question than the ACT.  The new SAT will allow even more time, which will be a plus for students with slower processing speeds.
ACT changes:  The ACT changes are subtler and include:
  • Essay changes – Students will be asked to analyze a complex issue, after being provided several perspectives.
  • Extra scores/reporting – There will be four new college readiness indicators: a STEM score of math and science; an English Language Arts score of English, Reading and Writing; a Progress Towards Career Readiness score; and a Text Complexity Progress indicator.
  • Digital assessments – Computer-based tests will be introduced in some districts and states in 2015 and will be introduced more widely in 2016.
  • Reading changes – Students will be asked to compare and contrast two reading passages (as has been done in the SAT).
  • Optional constructed response subject test. – Optional 30-minute subject tests in reading, math and science, that assess whether students can justify, explain and use evidence to support claims, will be added.
Timeline: The timeline of SAT and ACT changes are as follows:
  • December 2014 – Practice PSAT released
  • March 2015 – Practice SATs released with College Board book to follow
  • Spring/Fall 2015 – Digital ACT and ACT changes
  • October 2015 – New PSAT for Class of 2017 and 2018
  • January 2016 – Final old SAT
  • March 2016 – New SAT released and first digital SAT.
The Class of 2017 (rising Sophomores) will be able to take either the old SAT or the new SAT or both.
Are you looking forward to these changes?   

Five Things for High School Seniors To Do Now

For high school seniors, college application deadlines are just around the corner. Here are five things to do now, to be ready for fall application deadlines.

1. Finalize the college list and know the due dates. Generally, I recommend that students apply to no more than nine colleges, including stretch, match and safe schools. College application deadlines vary, and some schools have application due dates as early as October. For each school on your final college list, decide whether to apply early decision, early action or regular decision. Record the application and financial aid due dates.

2. Schedule Fall tests. If you haven’t taken the SAT or ACT, or want to take them again, check that the scores will be available by the college due dates, and then register. October is often the last test date that will be scored in time.

3. Schedule college visits. Many colleges use “enthusiasm to attend” as one of their admissions criteria. Visiting is an excellent way to demonstrate your enthusiasm and to learn more about the college. If possible, schedule an interview when you visit.  You may be able visit some colleges that are in session, before high school resumes. 

4. Get teacher recommendations. If you did not ask teachers for recommendations in the Spring, do it as soon as school starts. Notify your guidance counselor if you will be applying to schools early admission, since they also need to prepare a recommendation and get other materials ready for your applications.

5. Finish applications, including essays early. Your applications are critical and should be treated as such. Your essays will take time to write and revise.  Plan enough time to revise each essay three or four times.  Make sure to proofread your applications, including essays carefully.