COVID-19 Just canceled my [blank]. Now what?
Hey, Striver, it's Shawnie here! As we all roll with the punches of #quarantinelife, I've been snooping through the trenches of the internet to deliver two juicy bits of knowledge
How COVID-19 is dedicated to clearing your schedule for you.
Why having an unrestricted schedule may be the worst idea ever.
As schools have been flocking to online instruction faster than a fangirl at a Bieber concert, other big-ticket events have been dedicated to clearing your schedule (like Coachella, the SAT/ACT, AP tests) like nobody's business. For example:
The March, May SAT, and June (and SAT Subject) tests have been canceled.
Although the College Board is still technically eyeing the possibility of canceling the June 6th test, they promise to issue refunds to parents to enroll in the next one. Make sure to register for the next potential test day as soon as possible, so that you can guarantee your seat. While we're at the next test - the College Board has promised that they will try and secure additional test dates and locations. However, I can promise you that delaying thousands of students from taking the SAT will make seating a hot commodity soon. *Update, the June SAT has been canceled as well. According to their website, the SAT will be offering the SAT every month after August*
In-person AP tests are canceled, with the possibility of remote testing on the horizon.
The College Board is currently developing a way in which students can take 45-minute-long free-response tests (which they state will only focus on the content taught before school closures). Starting March 25th, they will also be releasing free instructional videos covering AP review material. So, study up buttercup! Oh, and make sure to get some online tutoring at Strive (shameless plug, I know).
The April ACT test has been canceled. ACT.org will be sending students an email with instructions on rescheduling to either the June 13th or July 18th test, so watch out for that email! Also, the ACT mentions that they will try to roll out "something" to help out seniors applying for college in the Fall of 2020, so that's a clear hint that you should for sure register for that June test as soon as possible.
The GRE is now offering online tests at home. Starting March 27th, the GRE will be offering proctored online tests for people to take in the comfort of their own home. According to ETS, participants will need a laptop with a webcam, a well-lit room, and a whiteboard (with dry erase markers) on hand during the test. However, make sure to check out their eligibility requirements, as their restrictions are quite extensive (i.e. you cannot use a Mac computer, no one can enter the room during the entire testing period, etc.).
College campus tours are now all online.
So what does this mean for both seniors and rising juniors? In the absence of on-campus tours, colleges are moving full speed ahead with remote and virtual options, from film clips and weekly webinars to live Q&As and more. If you can't tour in person before having to make a decision, check out YouVisit to feel like you're walking around campus, as well as CampusSherpa to get to virtually meet with an actual student who will give you honest and real insights into daily life at their university (discount code "strivetolearn" gets you 10% off!). Also, we are hearing rumors that many colleges may either go test-optional, like Case Western, or even in some cases, like the University of Northern Illinois, test-blind. However, remember that colleges still like to brag about students with high test scores, and removing the test from the equation will put more pressure on your transcripts (so make sure to keep your grades up).
*On a side note, now is the time to negotiate for higher merit scholarships due to institutional concerns about yield* For more information on which colleges are extending deadlines, hosting events, etc. click here.
Ultimately, the most prominent warning I am hearing from colleges reads rather loud and clear: Keep. Your. Grades. Up. While not explicitly stated by college admissions offices, as someone who's worked on the inside of college admissions, I can tell you with confidence that admissions officers are scared that this sudden transition to an online learning environment will be the death to many student's grades. So, before you start gleefully fantasizing about watching TikTok until your eyes bleed, I have some wisdom to share with you that may hopefully beat your instinctual urge to procrastinate.
Why An Unrestricted Schedule May Be the Worst Idea Ever
Without the hefty threat of an upcoming deadline, it can be easy to push off test prep until closer down the road. It's almost too easy to say, "I want to start learning closer to the test so that I won't forget." But those are lies! Sweet, delectable lies that you are telling yourself (we call them planning fallacies). Because science and psychology have demonstrated 3 strong reasons why your instinct may be misguided.
1. The Forgetting Curve. Back in the day, Ebbinghaus was bored out of his mind (perhaps similarly to you) and decided to track how long he remembered random nonsensical words. And while he would have made a heck of a roommate (imagine him mumbling around at all hours of the night, whispering nonsense), this is what he found.
2. Deeper learning. Known as Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning, this pyramid of understanding should help illustrate why extending your test prep is actually a benefit. Most students, because of lack of timing and feelings of overwhelm, struggle to function at a level 3 or 4. They haven't had the time and space to even let concepts sink to the depth needed to be able to process at a higher level (which takes sleep and time).
You have to keep in mind who actually designs these standardized tests (evil geniuses). Think about it. Implementing even 1 new question goes through an insanely rigorous process, several committees, and 12 full-time professional test developers. They are the human equivalent of the cartoon Coyote, who puts traps everywhere. The problem is, honey, you ain't no roadrunner, yet.
3. Self-awareness. Having space to process your answers not only allows you to get the concepts, but it also gives you more time to reflect on the answers you gave and what you did or did not understand. Some of the most potent advice and strategies we provide are vastly underutilized because students do not have the attentional space and time. Students are so busy just getting down the basics that they have no time to even engage in personal reflection, nevertheless, ask themselves questions like "now why did I get these ones wrong?" "What are my most common slip-ups?" "Which types of strategies work best for me and why?" etc. The sad thing is that the big secret behind test prep is 1/2 content and 1/2 self-awareness (by the way, a good time to mention this: now is a great time to do some mindfulness practice).
While it may seem like a logical idea to push off test prep, please...don't. Mastering the SAT and ACT takes intentional practice and self-reflection. With time, those skills and strategies will be embedded into your neural network. Don't be like the elderly lady in the Titanic, who throws a $200-300 million dollar opportunity off the back of a ship into the endless waters of mind-numbing entertainment. So, go get at it! You know what they say,
"good things come to those who hustle"