March Madness usually means college basketball playoffs filled with excitement, betting pools and raucous cheering at games. For the past two years, March Madness has taken on a different meaning with last year’s Varsity Blues Scandal and this year’s Coronavirus wreaking havoc on study abroad, college life and life in general. Colleges receive visitors from all over the world and therefore have reacted swiftly to minimize risk to their communities. Many colleges are moving to online classes and encouraging students to stay home after spring break. Here is a  full listing of colleges who have closed.  

The Coronavirus is also impacting the SATs this weekend as several testing centers have cancelled or postponed the test to March 28. We know this is disappointing when you have prepared and studied so hard and just want to get it over with. Arbor Bridge Testing Center published an informative blog regarding the crisis.

  • Test-Optional: Colleges may feel increasingly compelled to create temporary or long-term test-flexible policies to accommodate students unable to test. Indeed, the silver lining is that we’ve seen colleges take sympathetic action in response to international crises in the past. And we have every reason to believe they will offer varying kinds of flexibility to affected students in the coming admissions cycles.

While the crisis is real, the key is how to stay calm when March also brings the standard worries about admissions for high school seniors. As admissions decisions start to trickle in, remember that everyone is in the same boat of uncertainty. Here are some tips for how to manage this year’s March Madness.

  • Stay flexible. Flexibility applies to how you’ll gather information about schools if you can’t visit them a first or second time in addition to being open to all your options. For seniors, you can speak with current students, watch university videos and reach out to faculty with any lingering questions to help you decide. Now that classes have moved online for many institutions, you may have the opportunity to attend class from home. Ask colleges if that is a possibility to help you decide. 
  • Evaluate communication from various schools.  This is a great opportunity to see how your prospective school may respond to a crisis. Are they communicating with students and families well? What sort of contingency plans have they put in place? How does their reaction align with your needs?
  • Reassess your own needs. Nobody could have predicted the Coronavirus, but every year there is something that catches colleges and their communities off guard. Think about what is important to you? Do you want to be far away from home or closer to home? What is the best environment for you to thrive? Have your academic interests remained the same? Do you want to be close to a major hospital?
  • Practice resiliency.   Once the admissions decisions come in, even if they are not what you had hoped for or anticipated, be grateful for your options. Look for the positive in your acceptances and realize that life is filled with ups and downs, much of which you don’t have control over. But you do have control over how you respond and make the best of each situation.
  • Celebrate your success.  You’ve worked hard over the past four years and should celebrate getting to this milestone. By the time you start college, the coronavirus will (hopefully) be a distant memory.  
Create Your Own Admitted Students Day
In response to the Coronavirus, colleges across the nation are moving to virtual learning, many even sending students home for the duration of the semester. This move impacts not just current students but prospective students as well. High school seniors are making final decisions on which college to attend next fall. High school juniors have flights and hotel rooms booked as well for college visits this spring. While online research and virtual tours can’t replicate in-person experiences, there are abundant resources available for students to compare and evaluate colleges from home. Our colleague Dana Rolander put together a great list of resources. 

Virtual Tours:  Many colleges offer virtual tours on their websites. Campus Reel offers virtual tours of more than 300 colleges.

Social Media:  Most colleges have Facebook groups for admitted students. Join them to connect with other admitted students and read the discussion. If you “meet” someone you connect with, you can always move the chat to your preferred social media. Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are resources as well. Search for YouTube videos on your colleges of interest and you’ll find plenty of students sharing information and experiences about their colleges.

College Admissions Offices:  Look for announcements for organized virtual tours and admitted student days from the colleges. Reach out to your regional admission representative via phone or email to inquire about their plans. Ask for their recommendation on how best to experience the college virtually. See if they can connect you with a student ambassador through Skype or FaceTime. You’ll get brownie points for demonstrating interest if you are a prospective student. 

Good Old-Fashioned Pros and Cons:  Practice your spreadsheet skills by making a pros and cons list or comparison chart of the colleges’ features and data. How does your financial aid package or merit scholarship award compare? What are the graduation and retention rates? Were you admitted directly into the business or engineering school? If you took AP tests, compare how the colleges award credit. Were you admitted to an honors or scholars program with special perks?

College Websites:  Do a deep dive into the websites. Look at curriculum requirements and co-curricular opportunities for your prospective major. If you’re undecided, investigate advising resources for students with undeclared majors. Head to the section on student life and learn about student organizations and club sports. There is a wealth of information behind the landing page of every college website.

LinkedIn:  LinkedIn University pages provide a wealth of information about their alumni. You can get a sense of the types of careers their graduates pursue.

Data Resources:  If crunching numbers is your thing, Google “XYZ College Common Data Set” to explore data about admissions, graduation rates, faculty, costs and degrees awarded. Other resources for data include  and  .

Interviews:  Turn to older peers, neighbors and family members to ask about their experience if they attended colleges you are considering or ask if they know current students at those institutions with whom you can connect. Arrange a phone call to discuss their first-hand experience. Many students have been sent home from college, so there are tons of kids available to speak with.

There is a wealth of information available through virtual experiences so grab your laptop and cellphone and immerse yourself in research and discovery. Maybe you can even cash in that plane ticket for something special for your dorm room.
College Financial Aid: Time to Have the "Talk"

A few years ago, I was helping one of my seniors understand his financial aid and make his final decision about his college choices. He had narrowed it down to Northeastern and University of Pittsburgh. During the course of our discussion, he asked me, 

"Is Northeastern worth the extra money?  "

Waitlist: Now What?

Waitlists or alternative acceptances can be frustrating and curious depending on whether or not you considered the school a likely or safety. The key for this time of year is to focus on the positive and not take the denials personally. (I know, easier said than done). You should be proud of your efforts and accomplishments and put your energy into making a final decision among your acceptances.

Georgia Tech also recently shared an article on why the waitlist STILL sucks, you can read it here .
CBM On The Road: Recent College Visits
Since so many schools are closing you can check out our reviews here of U of Washington , Duke Vanderbilt , Harvard , NYU .  For a full listing of college reviews check out our college visit blog.
Campus Reel offers thousands of real tours, videos and virtual experiences on college campuses .

College Kickstart has a great list of regular decision dates, mark your calendars!

What's Happening Now
Reality Check
You are in the driver's seat, so use this opportunity to look at schools with much more precision and focus. Your needs should be very clear by now and you will know what lingering questions still need to be answered. If possible, focus again on the key areas specific to your needs. Here is a link to  college visit restrictions by schools . To date, Harvard, UPenn, Cornell, MIT, WashU, Stanford, and many others have canceled admitted students day.   

Hang in there. You're more than halfway through junior year. Make sure to take notes and photos on your college visits so we can refer back to them later, if you are still able to visit campus. Please register for your ACT/SAT and SAT Subject Tests early!

Freshmen / Sophomores: 
If we haven't already, let's meet to plan your courses and activities for the summer and next year. 
We are eager to hear about all of your college research and acceptances!
Follow the journeys of eleven students as they navigate the college application process and search for the right fit schools. Getting into their heads as they make decisions about which extracurricular activities to pursue, which schools to apply to, and which topics to choose for their essays will help you think about your own process in a more strategic way. Order Here .
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