UPDATED: August 25th, 2021

Q. I’m still finalizing my college list.  Are colleges accepting in-person visits for fall 2021, and should I be doing other things to prepare to apply?

A.Many colleges and universities are welcoming prospective students and families back on campus for in-person events and tours.  Before planning any in person visits, make sure to check the college or university website for more specific information, including any safety protocols in place for on campus visits.

Even if you can’t visit in person and your list is not final, there is plenty you can do. As a result of the pandemic, many colleges and universities increased the number of virtual offerings, and many plan to keep this virtual option moving forward.  

Take advantage of virtual offerings at the colleges that interest you; you may be able to “visit” more colleges this way than you would in person. Create your profile on either the Coalition Application or the Common Application (the choice depends on the colleges you are considering) and include the colleges on your list. You can always add more colleges later.

September is also a great time to ask for letters of recommendation and polish your essay (the Coalition and Common applications list essay topics).

Essays provide the reader insight into who you are as an individual beyond your grades and test scores.  Depending on the college, they can play a significant role in your overall application.  Regardless of your essay topic, make sure to write in your voice and relate the topic to you. Use this as an opportunity to share what’s important to you, how your experiences have shaped you, and the unique attributes you’ll bring to the college’s learning community.

Your recommendation letters should share similar insights from someone else’s perspective. Ask teachers who know you well and give them plenty of time (three to four weeks) to write a thoughtful reflection on their experiences with you in the classroom. Consider teachers who can speak to your personal growth, contributions to the class experience, or your resolve to overcome academic challenges.

Finally, a word about standardized testing: due to the pandemic, many colleges have become test-optional, and many others have been test-optional for years.  Therefore, you will want to check the application requirements for each school you plan on applying to, ensuring you have satisfied all their requirements.

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