Let’s all take a deep breath and embrace the change! Throughout this season of uncertainty, we might not have felt like we could take a breath due to new policies, changing processes, and the business of figuring out the “new normal.” In this season, however, the Lord has brought to my mind Psalm 18:36 “You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.” He is our constant, never-changing foundation of hope. This verse has laid the foundation for my hope and encouragement not only for our students who find themselves deep in the application process, but for their years beyond the halls of Legacy Christian Academy. Let’s be encouraged by this truth as we dive into the changes we are seeing in the college application process.
The biggest college application deadline of the year has passed, but so much is still ahead for the Department of College Counseling and my goal is to keep our Legacy families informed about the college discovery process. There is no question that this year has brought big change. Change, while intimidating, can be a good, and even a great thing. There are three of the major changes we have seen this year in the college admissions process. I won’t be able to unpack every change, but I want to begin the conversation with these three changes!
College research encompasses several aspects. It might be attending a college fair, visiting with a college representative, reading an email or a promo piece sent to your home, exploring a college website, or even venturing in-person for a campus visit.
Changes: COVID-19 halted the majority of these tangible research options such as college fairs and campus visits. The Class of 2021 is much more limited than previous classes in terms of visiting colleges in-person. However, this created the need for colleges to develop virtual resources: campus tours, admissions meetings, and even visit events. While I still highly encourage families to go visit colleges in-person, students now have more ways than ever before to see and explore college campuses.
Legacy has accordingly shifted our approach. We transformed our annual college fair to the LCA Virtual College Fair. I am happy to report that, due to the flexible online format, we had more colleges in attendance than ever before. College lunch visits have now been moved to virtual visits on Wednesdays so students don’t have to choose between having lunch with their friends or going to speak to the college representatives. The changes we have made have created more opportunity for students! We are stepping into new territory where meetings with a college admissions officer are just a few clicks away.
The ACT remains the strongest standardized test for Legacy students. 99% of our students perform better on this standardized test than other options. The ACT is curriculum-based and remains a true testament to the rigorous education students receive at Legacy. In addition, the Legacy academic program has moved to using the ACT Aspire grade-level periodic and summative testing in grades 3rd through 10th which aligns directly with the established ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and standards. Our students score well above the national average on the ACT and double the state and national averages for meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmarks.
Changes: With Spring and Summer ACT tests canceled due to COVID-19, it was chaotic to say the least. Rising seniors couldn’t take the ACT and colleges didn’t know how to review applications without the ACT. Colleges ultimately decided to move to a test-optional policy due to the fact that some students were not able to take the ACT. This policy allowed students to apply to colleges without sending in standardized test scores meaning their application would be reviewed without this previously necessary data point. This brought about much debate such as “What are the stipulations of this policy at each college?” and “Should students send scores or not?”.
Legacy worked diligently to be able to offer the Fall ACT to more than 120 Legacy students onsite in October and we have nearly the same number registered to take the test next month. It was important to offer these additional testing opportunities since many national ACT tests were canceled. Due to test-optional changes, this year has required more intense research with respect to each college's policy and more in-depth advising to help students determinetheir best path to admission. Meeting individually with each senior to guide them through this process is a journey that I cherish. Our students' have demonstrated great resilience and willingness to seek the 1:1 advising offered at Legacy.
Who doesn’t want to be considered for academic scholarships? In the past, these coveted academic scholarships have been closely tied to a student's ACT scores. It has been challenging for students who are strong academically yet aren’t able to see this ability reflected in their ACT score.
Changes: COVID-19 and test-optional policies have respectfully challenged this old, and sometimes too formulated scholarship consideration. We have seen colleges move to a more holistic view, especially for those test-optional applications. Colleges can no longer rely on just a student's GPA and ACT to award scholarships. Shifting from this focus on statistics alone has helped to open doors to academic scholarships that previously would have been closed. Applications are being reviewed more holistically, which is incredibly beneficial.
Legacy has continued to stay true to our mission to prepare students for college and beyond, and not just by helping them prepare to apply for college. It is important that students become well-rounded and build a resume with life-changing experiences, and learn to stand firm in their convictions. Our students are prepared, ready, and deserving of scholarships!
My goal, as director of the college guidance program, is to help all families realize that the College Application Process starts when your student enters the Upper School, if not before. It is never too early to start learning about the process and encouraging healthy conversations about college dreams and goals. It is my privilege to help families navigate the challenging and ever-evolving landscape of college admissions and determine the best collegiate fit for our Legacy students.