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For high school students, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into a college admissions cycle that is already a lengthy and stressful one, but four Long Island experts in navigating the process shared their advice at a Schneps Media webinar on Wednesday. 

The webinar, titled College Knowledge 2020, was hosted by Schneps Media Vice President Elizabeth Aloni, and featured private college advisor Andy Lockwood, test preparation and academic expert Tom Ehlers, clinical social worker Catharina Kleuskens, and college counselor, advisor, and educational consultant Patty Ziplow. Although the pandemic has halted students’ ability to physically visit colleges they are interested in, Ziplow said it is still important to show interest virtually. 

“Many schools do track demonstrated interest and they have very sophisticated ways of finding out who has opened emails that have been sent, who has attended virtual information sessions,” Ziplow, who is co-founder of A2Z Admissions Consulting Group, LLC, said. “But schools will tell you that the most important way you can illustrate your demonstrated interest is to apply early.” 

Lockwood, who is the founder of Lockwood College Prep, also specializes in the financial side of helping students and their families search for colleges that are right for them. Lockwood said this demonstrated early interest can help students get more money from schools in the form of scholarships. 

Lockwood added that despite the constraints of the pandemic, which have placed colleges under “tremendous budgetary pressures,” students can still avoid paying full tuition in many cases through merit-based aid or by negotiating financial aid. 

“There’s still a lot of money out there and I think anyone can afford college,” Lockwood said. “Paying full price is a choice, only about 25 percent at any given college pay full price or are subsidizing the other 75 percent of families who are getting some sort of discount.” 

Tom Ehlers, president and founder of Method Test Prep, said even as more colleges are transitioning to test optional amidst the pandemic, it’s still important to take standardized tests like the SAT or ACT because many schools are not “test blind,” meaning that they won’t look at test scores. Ehlers said good scores on the test can also contribute to larger merit-based aid, and that despite the anxiety and buildup going into tests like the ACT or SAT, studying intelligently can make a huge difference.  

“What I find is that most students, they have such a fear of these exams because they just don’t know anything about them,” Ehlers said. “And they actually can be successful, so they just need to put in a little bit of time.” 

Kleuskens, a clinical social worker based in Merrick, said she has most recently worked with patients to discuss their apprehension about the transition process to college and laid out the pros and cons of going away to school given the pandemic. Kleuskens said the inability of most high school seniors to finish their semesters in-person this spring also changed the course of many discussions. 

“They kind of got shorted and didn’t get to graduate [in-person], didn’t make that start of that big transition phase, and a lot of them show a lot of anxiety towards what’s lying ahead,” Kleuskens said. “So we’ve really been addressing how can we adjust the initial plan which we’ve been working on for possibly two years and change it into something that can work.” 

Sharing concluding advice, Lockwood said college is ultimately a “means to an end” and students need to take a step back to understand where they would fit best based on choices of study and what they might see themselves doing later in life.

“I think the biggest problem is we’re all so focused on this artificial, narrow four years of kids’ lives, and really the bigger picture is the 40 or 50 years,” Lockwood said. “It’s almost as if we were all just putting all our time and energy and effort into rushing to the airport and we have no idea where the flight is going.” 

Watch the webinar below:

Related Story: Coronavirus Concerns Loom Over Fall College Semester Plans on Long Island

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