3 Steps for College Applicants With Personal Crises 2018

High school seniors and their families affected by Hurricane Harvey may have many questions related to how the storm affects the college application process.

These families should relax when it comes to college admissions, says Jeff Fuller, director of college counseling at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School in Houston.

“Colleges are going to work with families and students through this process,” says Fuller, a former admissions official at the University of Houston.

But after any natural disaster or other major crisis there are tasks families can complete to ensure high schoolers have a chance at getting into their dream school.

Step 1: Focus on the crisis first. Natural disasters have happened before and admissions officials are prepared to address how any catastrophic event impacts the process for students, says Fuller, former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

He’s already heard from admissions officials at several colleges that plan to help Hurricane Harvey victims when they are ready.

While he can’t speak for everyone, Ken Anselment, dean of admissions and financial aid at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, said via email he presumes most admissions officials have enough empathy and will offer flexibility to applicants affected by any major life event.

Students can check the College Board’s website for updates on SAT exams canceled because of Harvey. The College Board said in a statement on Friday they are working as quickly as possible to arrange makeup testing to students affected by the storm who were unable to take the August test and will provide updates.

Likewise, students can visit the ACT’s website or call the organization at 319-337-1270 for information on upcoming test dates.

Ed Colby, a spokesman for the ACT, tells families not to worry about the exam right now. They will work with families affected by Harvey – and other major life events – to ensure students have a chance to take the ACT and do their best to rush score reports during these times.

However, students should notify schools they’ve applied to that scores may be coming late and of their situation, he says.

Step 2: Contact admissions offices. Once families get back to some sense of normalcy, they should contact officials at colleges their students are considering and explain their situation, says Fuller.

These situations include any major personal tragedy that disrupt a student’s academic year – a fire, death of a parent, serious illness and so on, Fuller says. Though, he says, students should only release as much information as they feel comfortable.

Angelica Melendez, president of the Texas Association for College Admission Counseling, adds students should advocate for themselves. Students should inquire about fee waiver exemptions for college admissions exams or applications, but they may need to ask officials for guidance.

[Learn how high school counselors can help families.]

It’s OK for students to ask for help from college admissions officers and school counselors, and they should know it may take time to sort through tasks as families process recent events, says Melendez, also a college and financial aid specialist with South San Antonio High School.

Step 3: Don’t worry about academic records. Most records, like transcripts and standardized test results, are kept electronically, so retrieving this documentation shouldn’t be challenging, says Fuller.

If students have started the Common Application or another online college application, their work should be saved, Fuller says, though there may be students who have to rewrite essays or resumes if these files were only saved on one device lost in the storm.

Students can apply for financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student AidOct. 1, when the IRS data retrieval tool should be available. Fuller says students should be able to retrieve financial records electronically using this tool.

Last week, the Department of Education announced plans to ease financial aid rules and procedures for Harvey victims, the Associated Press reported.

Step 4: Recognize college plans may change. Families should ensure students still look for the most important thing during this process – a college they are going to be comfortable at, says Fuller.

Some students may change their college plans after a major crisis and that’s OK, he says.

[Get more advice on applying to college.]

For Harvey victims, Fuller says families should know it’s still relatively early in the college admissions process – there’s still plenty of time.

The most important thing is for families to be there for their students during these times.