Empowerly’s Guide to Navigating High School During COVID

person writing on notebook
Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

Many aspects of the high school experience have changed over the past 12-14 months. Not only has distance learning become the de facto method in many school systems, the college admissions process remains unpredictable. Nonetheless, students are still expected to carry on and do their best. To clear up some confusion and frustration, our team has developed a survival strategy for you. To make it even easier, we’ve put together the official Empowerly’s Guide to Navigating High School During COVID to help you stay afloat… and even continue to thrive!

We put this together with you in mind. Some of you have a few burning questions that the internet just can’t resolve. For others, your guidance counselor just doesn’t have an answer for everything this last year has posed. Besides all that, some aspects of the application process seem to be changing by the month. How are you expected to succeed? Check out the guide below to take the first step to securing a promising, safe future!

“Help! Is everyone – or anyone – struggling as much as me?”

Well, each student – and more broadly, each school district – has a different way of handling the pandemic. So the exact obstacles you face might be a little unique compared to a student in another grade, city, or state. That is part of what makes overcoming these obstacles especially challenging: so much of this discussion demands nuance!

Furthermore, the scale of this pandemic has no real precedent. In other words, there aren’t any books at the library or handy-dandy Reddit threads from those older and wiser. It’s all new territory. To solve that, we’ve written our own. Let me explain:

The good news

I can say that every high school student is facing some kind of challenge right now. You are not alone. Beyond that, colleges and universities are facing new problems as well, so they are fully aware of the fact that your usual routines and opportunities aren’t available. As a result, admissions offices are making concessions and providing leeway for students who show effort despite their circumstances.

And the other good news: you have experts in the college admissions field on your side! Our Head of Research, Julia de Raadt, has put in countless hours of research and reading to uncover highly valuable insights, contained in this guide. Drawing on data, student anecdotes, and direct statements from colleges themselves, this comprehensive guide address your major concerns, like:

  • GPA and grading systems with pass/fail marks
  • How to approach standardized testing and examinations (if at all!)
  • Changing extracurricular activities under social distancing
  • What colleges actually care about now
  • Tips on picking a safe, and worthwhile, college to attend
  • Writing essays (and that new Common App COVID prompt)
  • and more.

We hope that this guide will answer your main concerns, give you steps to take in order to feel successful, and relieve some of the stress of this phase of life. We’ve provided some tangible resources and guides for you to continue reading and follow-up on. And of course, after reading this guide, if you’d like to ask about the specifics, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team is working hard to help students survive this, and make sure your future isn’t disrupted. So now, without further ado…

Here is the official Empowerly Guide to Navigating High School During COVID:

Go ahead, download it! This is Empowerly’s Guide to Navigating High School During COVID.

High school itself is a challenge. Keep this in your pocket as a support system and guidebook!

We’re proud to provide this knowledge free of charge to any student who needs help. Read through it, share it with friends, post it on social media, and reference it any time.

This is a preview of some of our key takeaways…

What Admissions Care About During the Pandemic

With the temporary suspension of tests, subject tests being altogether dropped, and many high schools resorting to P/F grades, what is important in the admission application?

Shift in priorities

Not surprisingly, standardized tests and GPA have become less important, and instead, essays, recommendation letters, and interviews are being given more prominence in the application.

Why writing matters

Admission officers are relying more on the essays to find out about you – where you’ve been and where you want to go. We advise students to spend plenty of time focusing on the content and quality of their essays. Recommendation letters give a clearer picture of a student’s character so make sure you select a referee that knows you and your abilities well. Finally, the interview provides admission officers the opportunity to get to know the applicant so take the time to prepare, listing responses to possible questions they may ask.

How you can shine

Review your application and resume thoroughly and make sure you research the college website before the interview with some questions to ask at the end.

For students in all grades

Finally, extracurricular activities may have been disrupted by the pandemic, but it’s important to stay involved even if participation is virtual. Sustained involvement in your interests outside of the classroom demonstrates resilience to admission officers. The pandemic has presented opportunities to show leadership and come up with innovative ways to stay connected.

You can find all this and more in Empowerly’s Guide to Navigating High School During COVID. Our graphic design whiz Sophia also made the information easy to access, and reference as you work through it. Be sure to check out the hyperlinks within the guide for supplemental resources!


Still struggling?

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. We are happy to answer your questions about how to get started, and set you up with a complimentary consultation session to share more information about our program and approach. The Empowerly counselors have experience helping with essays, applications, scholarships, and more. You don’t have to face this alone. Let us take some of that weight off your shoulders.

Questions? Let us know!