Coalition Application Allows You to Explain Your COVID-19 Hardships
Do you know about the Coalition for College? Its mission is to help students, especially those traditionally underserved in higher education, learn about, prepare for and apply to college. All 150+ Coalition member schools support lower-income, under-resourced, and/or first-generation students and provide responsible financial aid to support their success in college and beyond. For more background, check my previous Coalition comments.
High school students who will be applying to any of the Coalition schools will have the opportunity to detail any COVID-19-related circumstances that have made their lives difficult during the ongoing pandemic. This summer, the Coalition will add a question to its application that enables students and counselors to describe how the pandemic has impacted education at their schools, as well as life at home. Here's how that will work:
For students, both first-year and transfer, an optional checkbox-style question will allow them to choose the statements (shown below) that describe how COVID-19 has affected their ability to engage in schoolwork. Statements cover a range of impacts, allowing students to indicate whether they've dealt with unreliable access to the internet or a home computer, for example, or if they or a parent/guardian have suffered job losses or have been designated as essential workers. An optional text field will be available for students who choose to add more detail.
On their portion of the application, counselors will also have a checkbox-style question to describe the changes in educational delivery and assessment at their school, with an optional text field to share more information, if desired. Counselors can complete this question once for all students at their school.
Transfer students will also be provided with checkboxes that allow them to describe any changes to the grading policy reflected on their college transcripts, indicating whether their schools changed the grading policy for all students, provided students with a choice in how their grades would be assigned, or made no changes.
Consider the Guiding Principles of This Change
To arrive at this approach, the Coalition worked with advisors from community-based organizations, school counselors and member colleges and universities in order to create questions that align with three guiding principles:
- Limit the burden on students as much as possible,
- Be efficient for counselors as they complete recommendations for all of their students, and
- Provide data that is meaningful for college admissions offices.
While the pandemic and the broad societal changes it caused made the need for such an update to the application clear, the Coalition's question may also be used to address how other events, like natural disasters, have disrupted a student's education.
Here is that optional student question mentioned above:
Natural disasters and emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted the lives of many students and their families. While entirely optional, you may share information here regarding how any of these events have affected you or your family circumstances.
Check all of the following that apply to you:
☐ I had inconsistent or unreliable access to home internet and/or a computer, laptop or tablet.
☐ At least one parent/guardian lost their job or was unable to work.
☐ I lost my job or was no longer able to work.
☐ At least one parent, guardian or caretaker was considered an essential worker (e.g. healthcare worker, grocery store employee, public transportation driver, first responder, sanitation worker) and was required to work.
☐ I was considered an essential worker and required to work.
☐ My community had a curfew affecting the hours I could travel, use electricity, or access the internet.
☐ My home responsibilities (i.e. childcare, elder care, etc.) substantially increased or changed.
☐ My health was affected.
☐ A member of my household's health was affected.
☐ None of these apply to me.
☐ I would like to provide additional information. (Text box appears providing for 300 words max)
Counselors will be provided this question, with the ability to complete it once for all students at their school:
In light of natural disasters and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have made significant adjustments to their academic schedule, course offerings, method of instruction and grading and testing policies. If you wish, you may share information here regarding how your school or organization has responded to these events.
Check all of the following that apply to you:
☐ There were no significant changes.
☐ We ended the school year early.
☐ The school year was extended.
☐ Instruction was conducted online/virtually.
☐ Due to access and equity issues, our school/district was not able to provide an online/virtual learning experience
☐ Students picked up or were mailed hardcopy homework packets.
☐ All students were required to take their courses pass/fail.
☐ Students were given the choice to take their courses pass/fail, receive a grade, or receive an altered assessment method.
☐ Students received grades from Spring 2020 but they are not included in GPA and/or class rank calculation.
☐ Our school discontinued or modified operations as a standardized testing center.
☐ I would like to provide additional information. (Text box appears providing 200 words max)
Regarding transfer students:
Because transfer students may also need to relay academic changes at their schools, they will have the opportunity, via a checkbox question and optional additional text, to share whether and how grading policy changed for them, via the following options:
☐ My school changed its grading policy for all students.
☐ My school allowed students to choose how their grades would be assigned (e.g. pass/fail, credit/no credit, letter grades).
☐ My school did not change its grading policy.
☐ I would like to provide additional information. (Text box appears providing 300 words max)
I think this addition will offer a significant boost to students' efforts as they apply to college. Many have had to deal (and are dealing) with difficult circumstances caused by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Having the opportunity to articulate those challenges will make for an even more transparent and, hopefully, successful college process.
Share Your Thoughts
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!