Timothy Peck 8 min read Coronavirus

5 Things High School Juniors Should Do During the Coronavirus

COVID-19 has dramatically altered the world we live in, and has affected the lives of millions of people. High school students haven’t been immune to the disruption—across the country, classes, standardized tests, and extracurricular activities have been postponed or canceled. 

 

High school juniors might be feeling especially stressed, as junior year spring is normally a vital preparation period for college applications. Many juniors use this time to take the SAT/ACT, improve extracurriculars, and visit colleges. To make sure you’re still on track despite the current obstacles, here are 5 things high school juniors should do during the coronavirus. 

 

5 Things High School Juniors Should Do During the Coronavirus

 

1. Study for AP Exams

 

The College Board surveyed 18,000 AP students and found that 91% of them were still anxious to take their AP exams. This is likely because students need AP scores to receive college credit at many schools. To fulfill the needs of their students, the AP has been busy adapting their curriculum in the face of the challenges of the coronavirus situation. A few of the ways they are adjusting to issues caused by the coronavirus are: 

 

  • All exams are now 45-minutes, held online, and free-response only (for 2020)
  • Exams will only include topics and skills covered up to early March
  • Exams can be taken on any device students have access to—computer, tablet, or smartphone (submitting a photo of handwritten work will also be an option)
  • The College Board is working to bridge the digital divide that might prevent some low-income and rural students from participating, encouraging students to reach out if they need mobile tools or connectivity

 

Because the AP exams are going to happen, it’s important that you continue to prepare for them. To help you get ready for your AP exam and overcome the loss/cancellation of classes, the College Board is providing free, live AP review classes. These classes are taught by real AP teachers from across the country, are mobile friendly, and you can either watch them live (get the AP class schedule here) or access them via the AP’s YouTube page at your convenience. The focus of these classes will be reviewing skills and concepts from the first three-quarters of the course, but they will also include some exploration of topics covered in the last quarter of the course. 

 

There’s no need to limit yourself to studying for your AP exams using just the resources provided by the College Board. Varsity Tutors has an extensive library of free tests for honing your skills in advance of the AP exams. At CollegeVine, you’ll find study guides full of free resources and expert tips. As you prepare, just remember that this year’s exams will only include free-response questions that cover material taught through early March. Be sure to focus your efforts there, and not on material that won’t be covered this year.

 

2. Pick Up Self-Driven Extracurriculars

 

Extracurricular activities play a significant role in the college admissions process—CollegeVine’s data reveals that extracuriculars typically account for about 25% of an application’s weight at the top 100 colleges. Because of this, many students are concerned about what cancelled extracurriculars means for their college admissions odds. 

 

The saying “behind every adversity is an opportunity” rings true at this moment. Although many traditional extracurricular activities have been canceled because of concerns over coronavirus, this is an excellent opportunity for motivated students to stand out. Leadership is a quality prized by colleges, and finding a way to carry on in the midst of a crisis is sure to spark the interest of colleges. 

 

If you can continue your club digitally, try to take initiative on that and organize group chats and Zoom meetings. You might also use this time to build club materials, such as a training manual or handbook. Even activities that might not seem possible to continue during coronavirus can be explored in other ways. For instance, if you’re on a sports team, you might exercise together virtually, by doing home cardio or ab workouts.

 

This is also a great chance to add some self-driven extracurricular activities to spotlight your unique skills, interests, and initiative. One timely idea is to establish a charity or create a fundraiser to support those affected by COVID-19—this can be for anything from helping people cover their medical expenses to assisting those out of work.

 

You can also use your time away from school to build the blog or YouTube channel you always wanted. Just keep in mind that admissions officers will value content with an intellectual lens over casual lifestyle content, which will not hold much weight in admissions. For instance, rather than starting a fashion YouTube channel with outfit lookbooks, you might explore the environmental impact of fashion (or do a mix of more serious and fun videos). And instead of starting a movie review blog, you might write about film theory in the movies you’ve watched.

 

For more info on extracurricular activities during the coronavirus crisis, check out our blog post How is the Coronavirus Impacting High School Extracurricular Activities?

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3. Practice for the ACT/SAT/SAT Subject Tests

 

The coronavirus has also put the ACT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests in flux. The ACT pushed its April 4th exam to June 13th. Likewise, the College Board canceled its May 2nd administering of the SAT, along with the make-up exam for the March 14th test that was scheduled for March 28th. 

 

We predict that the June SAT/ACT dates will also be canceled, and are fifty-fifty on the July exam getting canceled as well. Of course, these are merely predictions, and everything is constantly changing. Smart students will want to play it safe and study as if these exams are still happening. To help you stay prepared, check out these awesome online resources: 

 

 

If you’ve already taken the ACT and are simply looking to improve your score, you’re in luck. Beginning in the fall, the ACT will allow students to retake specific sections of the exam. This provides students the chance to improve their grade while just focusing on the areas where they need improvement, rather than having to retake the entire ACT. 

 

It’s also possible that some schools will go test-optional for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle—joining the over 1,000 public and private colleges and universities across the U.S. that already do not require standardized SAT or ACT test scores. For example, the University of Oregon has already declared that it will not require test scores for this upcoming admissions cycle. That said, no matter what the schools decide, your application will only benefit from strong test scores, so you should plan to take the SAT/ACT in the fall and try to score well regardless. If your score fails to meet expectations and you don’t have time to retest, test-optional schools are a nice alternative, however.

 

Along those lines, there is a chance that schools requiring subject tests will make them optional as well. Once again, it’s in your best interest to take them and do well, but you don’t need to stress about it. If you’re not sure which SAT Subject Tests to take, see our articles on choosing the right Subject Tests based on your prospective major.

 

Above all, keep in mind that this year’s juniors are all in the same boat and will all have less time to improve their standardized test scores. It’s highly likely that this year’s scores will be lower on average, so just do the best you can with the time you have.

 

4. Keep Your Grades Up 

 

It’s highly possible that colleges will weigh junior spring grades less, or even ignore them altogether. Some high schools are already choosing not to give out grades for any work done remotely anyways. Regardless of what happens, you should still strive to maintain a good GPA—a consistently strong transcript will only help you in the admissions process. 

 

Here are five tips for keeping up your studies while stuck at home:

 

1. Make a schedule and stick to it: A schedule will help you keep track of your academic work, meet your school’s expectations, and maintain your grades. If you’re having trouble developing a schedule of your own, Khan Academy has a suggested schedule along with links to their courses. 

 

2. Set up a study place: Find a distraction-free place where you can keep your books, notes, computer, etc. and focus on studying. This will keep your attention from wandering to what’s streaming on Netflix or wasting valuable study time searching for your history book around the house.  

 

3. Get a study buddy: Just because you can’t meet face-to-face with your lab partner doesn’t mean you can’t study together. Get a study buddy and meet daily via FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom to practice flashcards, go over concepts, or describe to one another what you learned that day. 

 

4. Digital days: Embrace the wide variety of available digital media aimed at high school students. Get started by checking out the Big History Project’s free social studies curriculum, explore Discovery K12’s free courses, take a virtual museum tour, or get started reading one of the 60,000 free ebooks on Project Gutenberg

 

5. Talk to your teachers: Your teachers know you best—reach out to them to find out what you should prioritize working on to keep your coursework on track. 

 

If you do not have access to WiFi at home, some companies are providing free services during the coronavirus outbreak. Read our article What If My Grades Drop Due to Coronavirus? for more info about keeping your grades up during the coronavirus. 

 

5. Start On Your College Essays

 

We typically recommend that students wait until later into the application cycle to begin writing their college essays; however, with ACT/SAT cancellations and postponements, along with the odds of senior fall grades increasing in importance, getting a jumpstart on your essay is a smart strategy. 

 

The college essay is extremely important in admissions, and is almost as important as your academics at selective schools. This is because top schools get so many academically-qualified candidates that they need the essay to determine whether you’d be a good fit for their community. The essay is your chance to shine a spotlight on what makes you unique, interesting, and a great fit for their school. And, for those with less-competitive academics, it’s an excellent opportunity to boost your profile!

 

An engaging essay will provide admissions officers with information they can’t learn from your grades or test scores—sharing a skill, talent, or life experience that makes you unique. Here are a few things to focus on when constructing your essay: 

 

  • Brainstorm ideas before putting pen to paper
  • Create a “hook,” or something that makes it memorable
  • Share your personality through the essay—this is not a report, but a creative storytelling piece
  • Show, don’t tell—don’t just say you perform community service; rather, paint a picture of you volunteering at the food pantry
  • Proofread to ensure there are no grammatical, punctuation, or silly mistakes in your essay

 

While the coronavirus is on everyone’s mind, avoid making COVID-19 the focus of your essay—it’s something everyone is coping with and will not help you stand out. If you find a creative way to deal with the coronavirus, however, then it could be a smart idea to write about that experience in the context of COVID-19. For example, if you decide to build a computer during the coronavirus, or you sew masks for healthcare workers, you could choose to write about these projects.

 

Looking for essay ideas? This year’s Common App and Coalition Application prompts are the same as the ones from last year’s cycle. Check out our posts How to Write the Common App Essays (With Examples!) and How to Write the Coalition Application Essays to get a jumpstart on your college essay.

 

COVID-19 is interrupting daily life, but don’t allow it to disrupt your chances of attending your dream school. CollegeVine’s Coronavirus Info Center will help keep you up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 developments, along with providing insight into how best to navigate these uncertain times.

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.