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High School Students, Colleges Adjust to Changes in the Admissions Process

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BOSTON (CBS) — When Governor Charlie Baker officially closed schools for the remainder of the school year, Braintree High School junior Karim Mouine had one question that worried him the most: “Am I going to be missing out on opportunities that I need to get into college?”

According to Casey Near of Collegewise Counseling, schools are already making adjustments. More than 100 have announced they will be test-optional. “UMass is not on that list, but Babson is, BU is, Amherst is, Williams is,” she said.

She also noted that if you are a good test taker, don’t skip it if you have the opportunity, a strong score will still help your application.

There is also good news for the kids who are concerned about how the switch to pass/fail grading will impact their GPA. “I’m going to give every student listening to this permission: don’t worry, don’t worry about it. Every college and university has come out in support of pass/fail,” Near said.

Extracurriculars are a wild card because so many of those expensive opportunities that can give wealthier families a leg up are now not available to anyone. “There has never been a more level playing field,” Near said.
Near’s one piece of advice for every junior this year is be prepared to answer one question: “You better believe every college is going to ask: ‘How did you spend your time?”

Juniors should ask themselves: What can I do to help? What can I learn? This, Near said, will take some creativity in this environment, but there are things you can do without leaving home. She suggested tutoring a younger student, or help working families by online babysitting. Write a play, or read for fun. “I love Stephen King and I read all of the Stephen King novels, I made dinner for my family every night. That’s the kid that colleges are going to be excited about. The students who say nobody told me what to do are going to be left behind,” she warned.

Karim said even the process of picking the right school is tricky because workshops usually given through the high school guidance department are not available. He said he’s been on a number of virtual tours, but worries that they are not the same thing.”

“I know what is really important to me is what a campus looks like and how it feels. But now they are all closed,” Karim said.

According to Near, schools like Harvard will always be able to fill their seats, but other schools have their own set of challenges. “To survive [schools] are going to have to get creative and it’s going to have to benefit the student,” she said.

We are already seeing evidence of that creativity: Regis College announced a program that will allow students to graduate in three years, saving families thousands of dollars.

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