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Dear Colleges, Here's What the Class of 2021 is Up Against

A few days ago as many families with high school seniors tried desperately to sign up for a fall ACT to no avail, a mom innocently asked me, "Do the colleges know about the ongoing issues these kids are facing?" My heart sank.

I wanted to respond "yes" because if colleges are not fully aware, they will set unrealistic expectations for our kids and the coming admissions cycle. But I remember the mentality of being an admissions officer, or more aptly, a dean of admissions, who set policy. We were in our own little world of academia, sometimes oblivious to the plight of the students from whom we demanded so much.

So I thought I would start a list of all the things that have impacted our rising high school seniors just in the past few weeks so that colleges know. It is my hope that they stop for a moment and realize how ridiculous some of their requirements and demands are for students in this landscape.

Here is a running list of challenges: 

  • The ACT site crashed on Monday leaving the vast majority of students with no test date or scores yet.
  • Two weeks ago, two students tested positive for COVID-19 after taking the ACT at a high school in Oklahoma. 
  • Some high schools are eliminating foreign language from their curriculum offerings due to budget cuts leaving students unable to continue taking a language in high school.
  • Other high schools are not offering Honors or AP classes for the coming school year resulting in high-achieving students unable to take the classes colleges expect them to take.
  • Some colleges are offering campus tours again for prospective students. However, there are currently 34 states requiring a 14-day quarantine due to travel. For students with parents who work outside of the home, they still cannot visit any colleges as their parents would be forced to not work for two weeks straight.
  • Few colleges announced their 2020-2021 essay prompts in advance of the Common Application's relaunch on August 1st. This makes it impossible for students to start supplemental essays until August when many American high school students begin the school year and have little time to do anything but schoolwork.

Related reading: A Plea For Colleges to Announce Supplemental Essay Prompts Now

For all those colleges who still haven't announced a test optional policy yet, I hope this list and the growing sentiment that students should not be putting themselves at risk for a standardized test finally breaks them down. And for those colleges, like Georgetown University, that remain inflexible about standardized tests, still ask for a photograph as if it was 1950 instead of 2020, and hold onto unfair admissions practices abandoned by most colleges decades ago, I truly hope this pandemic inspires them to put students first rather than their own egos. 
I encourage families to add to my list so that we can share these grievances to ensure that colleges know what's really going on beyond their Ivory Towers. Colleges do not accept ignorance as an excuse for students. We must not accept the colleges' ignorance as a reason to put our kids through additional stress and unreasonable expectations.