Reflections on a Year of COVID

When COVID reared its ugly head, I was in London with my husband.

When COVID reared its ugly head, I was in London with my husband. I visited several schools in February- Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin, University College London (with my dear friend and colleague, Cyndy McDonald) and even went on a fun trip with Cyndy to Downton Abbey! We Squeezed in a couple of plays, one with Daniel Radclif at The Old Vic. What could be better? 

On to a wonderful UK University driving tour with my husband as our driver, Cyndy and I toured: University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield, University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, University of Liverpool, Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts- with the Paul McCartney Auditorium), and finally, the Liverpool John Moores (with one building called-The John Lennon Art and Design Building). This is when the world started to turn on its head. We heard the inklings of COVID. We heard  about this ‘flu’ inflicting its wounds and should we  or should we  not be shaking hands, should we even go to dinner? Life was carrying on as normal with big question marks. We raised our eyebrows when the cleaning crew at Liverpool John Moores went the extra mile to clean hand railings in the stairwell, and we thought, this COVID thing is bigger than we realized. No one at the time was even thinking about wearing masks. We crammed into taxis, students went about their daily business, nothing was different-yet.

We ended our time on this tour with a magnificent half day tour with Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tour. How could we not, being in the birthplace of The Fab Four? I was obsessed with The Beatles as an adolescent and fortunate enough to to attend one of their first concerts. The tour was nothing short of perfect. 

As we headed back to London, we realized life was changing. Cyndy flew back to California on an empty plane (lucky Cyndy). We realized we had to stock up on groceries and toilet paper to make sure we would make it through our time in London (we were to leave towards the end of April), it was now about March 6, 2020. The US was locked down, not so much in the UK. We watched the BBC for updates and what the UK would do as people fell ill with COVID and realized we better leave sooner than later as life is really turning on its side and soon, to turn upside down. We knew, based on the empty Abbey Road (which is always filled with tourists), it was time to go home. We left a month early on a rather full flight back to the states, two days before the UK went on full lockdown – we flew on March 21. 

World Student Support Students

So far, everyone was okay. They were still attending school and nothing was cancelled until… well, until it was. Standardized tests were cancelled, IB exams were reconstructed, AP exams as well. As we all know, education was turned  on its head. Online schooling  became a frustrating norm, for some a success, for some a massive failure. Parents juggled their  work and became tutors and teachers. Universities went test optional, test blind and record numbers of applications were submitted to the high profile universities. For these universities, admissions possibly received applications from students who may have had fabulous grades and perhaps not such great test takers-it was an open door for these students to submit applications. Think about this- NYU entertained 100,000 applications-a record number, UCLA had 140,000 applications. In other words, because of the test optional movement due to COVID related cancelations of standardized tests, students applied to schools when in other years, that door was never open to them before.

The Future of Test Optional and The Future of Testing

What does the future look like for Test Optional?  According to Fair Test, Here is what we know:

  •  It is becoming more clear that a student’s GPA is a better indicator of college success than a standardized test score
  • As of this writing, 1690 schools will remain test optional every major public university in the US will remain test optional with the exception of Florida 
  • The top 100 Liberal Arts colleges are keeping test optional admissions in place.  
  • Some universities have determined that they will experiment in the next few years and set up a baseline. 
  • The Fiske Guide for 2021 will not include test scores

Taking Care for the upcoming University Application Season  

Students should take care with their essays, choose with care who writes their Letters of Recommendation and if they have a chance to interview, be well prepared. Be aware that the college list may be a bit trickier to craft due to new entry requirements. As new university guides are published, there may no longer be test requirements included, students, counselors and parents may have to get comfortable with ambiguity. We are in new territory here with test optional, these next few years, we are laying the groundwork for the future. You are part of that future. 

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