OHIO — Typically GPAs and a range of test scores help colleges and universities decide who they'll admit for the upcoming academic year. With colleges dropping standardized test requirements and school districts across the state considering whether to give letter grades or a pass/fail, it can leave a student wondering what they need to focus on now to get into their college of choice.

High school counselors say don't fret. Students should only focus on what they can control.

  • Students taking AP courses should continue completing course work
  • Apply for financial aid even if a parent loses a job
  • Districts across the state are still considering switching to a pass/fail grading system, which could impact a student's GPA

Cincinnati Public Schools lead counselor Tanya Ficklin said there's no need for high school students planning to go to college in the fall of 2020 to stress about the SAT or ACT to get into college.

"Many schools have already gone test optional, which means you don't have to have a test score to be considered for acceptance," said Ficklin.

While most students from the class of 2020 have already taken the college readiness tests and are waiting on college acceptance letters, Ficklin said all students in AP classes should still do the course work and prioritize testing, even though assessments have been cut down from four hours to 45 minutes and shifted online. 

Since colleges typically use GPA and test scores as components to determine admission, Ficklin believes they'll give grace because of the pandemic and the possibility that districts may switch to a pass/fail grading system instead of letter grades for this spring.

"But it's definitely fair to say that the students will not be penalized for that, what's going on, and even if you do not do the AP test, you still have the knowledge of that AP class, which means that you're prepared for college when you get there," she said. 
Although it will be up to colleges as to how they utilize the scores, students should stay in contact with their teachers.

For those who have not filed for financial aid, she says you still have time since the deadline is June 1.

"It's not too late. They just need to go on and get it in and while they're doing that, they should also look for scholarships."

Even if a parent has lost a job or ends up losing a job before enrolling, she said don't let that stop you.

"Go on and fill it out with taxes from 2018, but then if you have come into a different financial situation, which many people are now, then you will reach out to the college and then the college will make adjustments for you," said Ficklin. 

The class of 2021 should have the same plan in mind. While many of the decisions made by school districts will impact that class the most, students should keep searching out college entry requirements and virtual tours of campuses, all while checking email and making sure they have the classes needed to be graduation-ready. 
Ficklin says she believes universities will be fair and equitable with kids based on what the country is currently going through. But she stressed that colleges don't just look at test scores or GPA. There's a whole array of things, from the rigor of previous classes, to seeing if you are a well-rounded student that impact admission decisions.