Bhakti Ahire, Design technology Educator and Author, International Baccalaureate

Bhakti is a Mechanical engineer who became an international teacher and a published author. She has over six years of international teaching experience as an IB and IGCSE Design facilitator in various international schools in India and China. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical engineering and is currently pursuing her Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from the University of Cumbria, UK. She has worked as a Head of the Design department and as a Design consultant across many premium schools in India. She has published her book for the IB Diploma program Design technology students with Extend Education, a publisher in the UK. She has also been recently awarded as the “100 inspirational women of the year 2021” by the I Can Foundation, India for her outstanding contributions to society. 

In the Covid-19 pandemic, international students are facing new challenges that could impact their readiness for colleges and jobs. With some universities having only online classes and standardized testing unavailable to some students, its ambiguous how students are to prepare for colleges and employment post-pandemic. This article will shed some light on ways in which students can use their time to upskill themselves and make them worthy of landing that dream college or job once life after COVID-19 opens up new opportunities.

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention and the education industry has been taking some strong measures to ensure that students suffer no loss of studies while staying away from the campus. The pandemic has been functioning as a catalyst for both, the educational and the corporate world to grow and opt for platforms and practices, they haven’t utilised before. Educational Institutions and business in no time have become completely digital. It’s difficult to predict whether the pandemic could forever change the way we work and study in the future.

Even in good times, applying to college can be stressful. Applying to college amidst a global pandemic, however, adds more uncertainties for some students and parents. The most typical question that I have been hearing during the pandemic is -How will universities gauge students when some of them are missing test scores, grades, and extracurricular, or have experienced substantial disruptions to their lives since the pandemic? 

So here are some ways that can help students stand out when applying to college during a pandemic:

  1. Research more about the colleges you’re interested in– Search for data about universities’ strength, emphasis, course offerings in the fields that you are interested in. Even some highly ranked colleges have inadequate academic departments.
  2. Keep an eye on the changing admissions requirements- Even though, requirements may seem to be set in stone, a university’s entry requirements have the possibility to change unpredictably. Some academies and universities including the University of California team will now not require the SAT/ACT scores for students applying for the 2021 class.
  3. Find college scholarships– Scholarships are all over, and more or less all candidates are looking to apply to them. It is a good idea to look for financial assistance opportunities as well. For this, you’ll need to put serious effort into your applications if you hope to stand out and receive aid from the college.
  4. Add some extracurricular to your application– This is a great approach to support your application and make you stand out to universities during the admissions process. Whether its sports, hobbies or activities outside of the school can help you and your application significantly. 
  5.  Move on from rejection-When applying to a college, there are only three responses you can receive: an acceptance, a rejection, or a waitlisted notice. It’s not rare to be rejected from a university, so you must apply to numerous universities to upsurge your possibilities of acceptance. 
  6. Take advantage of virtual opportunities to connect – In response to the suspension of university visit, students and parents now get a chance to meet in-person with admissions officers through webinars and video presentations featuring everything from interviews to financial aid and walking tours.
  7. One of the other opportunities to focus amidst the pandemic is the virtual internships, which are allowing the students to go beyond their syllabus and learn about the practicality of their jobs.
  8. Complete optional college application requirements-Some universities offer candidates opportunities to include an extra letter of recommendation, or “Spontaneous On-Demand Video Response” to showcase your strengths or accomplishments. Completing these “extras” might be more critical now.
  9. Pay attention to supplemental essays– Students might think that if their applications are lacking some letter grades or test scores, their college essay will be weighted more heavily by admissions. But that’s not the case. Admission teams are now looking more closely at supplemental essay questions. For example: “Why Oxford?” Or “Why UCLA?” This will show how much efforts you took to find out of this university is going to be a good match for you. 
  10. Take advantage of opportunities and resources that are available online-Students can narrow down career choices and start identifying the best colleges for that career and research more about student engagement opportunities. Mastery Prep, College Board and Khan Academy are now providing a lot of free resources online by holding virtual seminars, , panel discussions, resource fairs, college fairs.  
  11.  Students who have not decided on a college or university can use this time to see if their desired career field is offering any virtual opportunities or use this time to connect with a counsellor at your potential college or simply learn a new skill before going to a college.
  12. Contribute to your community– Research has shown that helping others in your community is the best ways to deal with in a crisis. Extend your support to your neighbours, make a donation, or give support to those around you who need it.
  13. Keep up with your classes– It is a common misunderstanding that online courses are easier than physical, but this isn’t always right, continue to attempt for the best grades and put all your effort into daily work and discussion boards! Even if you’ve already been accepted into a university, your high school classes are still vital, colleges do have the option to withdraw their acceptance to your application.
  14. Final reminder-Remember that, counsellors and school administrators are there to support this process. As a student, do not feel lonely or isolated, even if you are in a virtual school this year. Always ask questions as you can never have enough information.

Here are a few tips on how graduates can prepare to enter the workforce after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. LinkedIn Learning– Even though we are currently housebound, it is still important to network. The professional networking website LinkedIn also has a learning platform known as LinkedIn Learning, where users can access over 5000 courses available. Several universities give their students a LinkedIn Learning subscription for free. Once you complete a course, you can add the certification to your profile on LinkedIn, which will add more value to your profile.
  2. EdX, FutureLearn and Udemy –are all online learning platforms founded by some of the eminent universities like Harvard University, Deakin University and MIT. About 140 plus institutions have work together with such platforms to offer over 2,500 courses. These platforms allow aspirants to check the course for free, and if you wish to get the certification then, there is a fixed fee for it. The certification fees may vary from university to university.
  3. Understand the market-Once there is a clear career direction, start looking for jobs available and the skillsets to get a particular job. Then look into ways to develop these skills and prepare for the interviews.
  4. Hone your workspace skills– The top three skills recruiters are looking at the moment are adaptability, communication skills and collaboration. The key to selection during these challenging times is to be optimistic, eager to learn and adaptable to different environments with the daily changing situations.

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