St. George’s counselors have spent the last nine months guiding students through a school year that looks different from the way it usually does. Perhaps the students facing the most change are the members of the class of 2021, who are currently tasked with navigating the college admissions process.
St. George's Independent School college guidance counselor, Jessica Hardy and her students have faced and conquered some unexpected changes but have also been met with just as many silver linings. One of the biggest differences in the college admissions process, Jessica pointed out, has been the changes in standardized testing requirements.
“Our school culture has always been very focused on helping students become well-rounded college applicants, and one aspect of their resume is their standardized test scores,” Jessica explained. “But now that many schools are not requiring the SAT or ACT, students are faced with the unique challenge of demonstrating their strengths in different ways.”
Each college has chosen its own policy regarding the SAT and ACT. Some schools are still requiring test scores from their applicants, while others have outright removed test scores as an entry qualification. Additionally, several colleges have settled on the “test optional” admissions process, meaning an SAT/ACT score isn’t required for acceptance to the school but is required for things such as scholarships. This requires SGIS’ college guidance team to remain on their toes, uncovering the most updated and accurate information for the schools on each students’ list.
Jessica noted that most admissions counselors like herself are excited about these new testing policies. Colleges now have to delve deeper into each student's application to determine whether they’ll be admitted, where in the past they might have eliminated applications merely by test scores alone.
“Colleges are looking at these students as individuals now, not just a test score,” Jessica said. “We’re coaching students on ways that they can make their application stand out, which empowers students who may have felt hindered by the number on the College Board website.”
Without test scores, students are given the chance to highlight the other unique aspects of their lives. They can focus on sharing their personal development journey and put time into highlighting parts of their high school career that matter to them personally and impact their communities, such as service and leadership experience.
“When students have more time to lead and serve, they have the opportunity to bring their schools and communities to life,” Jessica explained. “A test score doesn’t have the ability to change anything on campus.”
But even with positive changes, there are still elements of the admissions process that feel distant. The shift to virtual tours and Zoom meetings means that students can no longer get the “feel” for a campus in the way they would if they walked the quad in person. But it also means that students who were unable to visit a campus before – because of distance or travel limitations – now have endless opportunities to explore colleges across the world.
Similarly, Zoom admission sessions have given busy students and working parents the opportunity to fully engage in the admissions process. There are benefits for college recruiters, too. Colleges are now able to visit nearly double the amount of high school campuses as college fairs have turned virtual or been canceled altogether.
“Colleges are being brought to us,” Jessica said. “They’re coming and they’re getting to learn more about St. George’s.”
It has always been important to St. George’s that its students receive the personalized emotional support they need throughout the college admissions process, especially as they prepare for a new stage of life. And this year, aiding and encouraging students has become even more important.Since March, St. George’s guidance counselors have been spending a significant amount of time with seniors, communicating more frequently with both students and their families. Luckily, many of the students’ future four-year homes are being just as understanding. Jessica noted that each university’s counselors have been prepped to help applicants navigate this unusual admission season, and some have even been reaching out to students personally.
For now, Jessica said that as always, St. George’s is focused on remaining student-centered and making different plans for each student’s unique personality and circumstances.
“We hope to offer trust and support to St. George’s students as they enter into this unknown space,” Jessica said.
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