The Foreign Service Journal, June 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JUNE 2020 67 while a college might be test-optional , it might still consider test scores for merit aid awards. (This could change next year, though, if few students submit scores.) Therefore, it would be a good idea to have standardized test scores ready to send, even if the student chooses not to submit them at the time of application. Lastly, ACT and SAT have announced they are working on an electronic ver- sion of the test that students can take online and at home. This has been met with a massive outcry from some oppo- nents in the college admissions com- munity over concerns of fairness, access and equity for students. As this article was going to print, this debate was still playing out. So stay tuned. Financial aid. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) uses the prior-prior year of taxes. If something has changed in the family’s financial situation, the student or par- ent can contact the head of financial aid or enrollment to discuss any extenuat- ing circumstances. This is a good tip for Foreign Service families in general because of frequent moves, allowances that change, loss of income when the accompanying spouse changes jobs, and so on. Every American university has a net cost calculator on its website to help determine the estimated family contri- bution. Be aware of which institutions meet full financial need, are generous with merit scholarships or may be “need aware” in admissions. Have “the talk” as a family about affordability before going too far down the application road. Will financial aid still be available in the future? Certainly, everyone wants that to be the case. However, the financial crisis resulting from the coro- navirus pandemic is going to hit some colleges harder than others, and may significantly affect their financial award dollars. Some colleges may even find themselves in financial trouble. To check out the financial stability of a college, you can search for the size of the endowment, the Form 990 that all nonprofit institutions are required to file with the IRS, audit statements or the ACTand SAThave announced they are working on an electronic version of the test that students can take online and at home. O ne concern that I hear again and again is this: If selective colleges no longer require standardized testing, and students have had their extracurricular activi- ties suspended, then how will colleges evaluate candi- dates, and how can applicants stand out in the process? Some things will remain the same: Admissions offi- cers will be looking at the courses students have taken, the trajectory of their grades and whether or not they have challenged themselves academically. Those colleges that require them will also look closely at the teacher and counselor letters of recommendation, as well as the personal statements that students write about themselves. The college-specific supplemental essays will be more important than ever, especially those that ask some version of the “why us” question. But perhaps most important, admissions officers are talking about this unusual period of time as a unique opportunity to show them who a student really is. When stripped of all the “busy-ness” of high school student life, they will be asking the question, “Who are you?” College admissions officers will want to know what passions or interests students have chosen to pursue, how they have used their time, or how they might have contributed to their community. Further, admissions offi- cers have stated that leadership comes in many forms, and it’s not just about being the president of a club or team. During this time, students are urged to think about their true interests so that qualities such as intellectual curiosity, creativity, compassion, grit and determination can be easily demonstrated in the application. —Becky Grappo How to Stand Out in the New Process