A college search involves visits in person, campus tours, as well as college fairs.

Navigating the College Search in the Age of Social Distance

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Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, our world looks much different than it did a month or two ago. Daily routines we relied on are now significantly altered. During a time when we typically enjoy being outside, watching lacrosse games, taking in the newly bloomed flowers, and riding bikes with friends, we find ourselves somewhat isolated and learning to work around the social contact we may have previously taken for granted. Though it may be temporary, we are faced with making the most of technology, attending classes on Zoom, and socializing with friends on video chat.

Every individual and age-group seeks to adapt to their own new set of challenges. For our Juniors, eager to begin visiting colleges and constructing their college lists, we’ve rapidly adjusted to a new set of realities and adaptations. This class is faced with much uncertainty surrounding canceled standardized tests and grades from online courses. It can be challenging to figure out how to recreate the previous expectations of this process. The College Office at New Hampton School is working hard to communicate expectations and provide suggestions about what our Juniors can do now to set themselves up for success in their college search.


The anticipated April ACT and May SAT were canceled. The June SAT is now in question. Juniors preparing for these college entrance exams for months wonder—now what?

Colleges understand the challenges of the global pandemic and that these exams were canceled out of necessity. As such, many schools are moving to test-optional policies for this cycle of admissions. Students should keep studying for exams, preparing for the possibility of new test dates; however, they should approach the process, knowing that not every college or university is going to require the test.

If the first time you take the exam is October, it’s okay. You will be in the same situation as many other seniors and colleges understand. Do your best and use this time to your advantage.

Research colleges

The spring is often a time to visit colleges, and many students planned travels during their spring break with this goal in mind. You might worry that now you can’t visit schools. Because of this, colleges are making great efforts to bolster their online tours and information sessions. Need a break from your distance learning classes? Sit back and take a virtual college tour! Search hashtags on social media for colleges you like. Take this extra time to think about what really matters to you in your next school.

When life is in full swing, we often acknowledge that we don’t have enough time to reflect. Reflect for yourself after seeing a Zoom meeting of 200 people and consider how that might translate in a lecture-style class in college. Are you comfortable learning this way? If not, maybe a smaller school is right for you.

Think about recommendation letters

With a little extra time on your hands, spend time reflecting on who could write about your classroom experience positively. Also, use this time to build a relationship with that teacher further, preparing to ask them formally when the time comes. Don’t forget to write a kind thank-you note after they say yes!

Remember to take a deep breath

It’s not always going to be this way. With fewer social distractions, you’ll probably find yourself with more free time. Taking time to think, read, dream, hang out, and grow closer to your family is all worthwhile.  Stay on top of the college process as best as you can and maintain connections with the support system your school has put in place to help you during these times.

And as always, you have college counselors who are happy and ready to chat about any of this.  We are here for you and are hoping to see you soon.

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