College Pete

The TRUTH About College & the College Board’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Week + Tips Ensuring You Get Your AP credit

The TRUTH About College & the College Board’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Week  + Tips Ensuring You Get Your AP credit

Happy Friday! Not gonna sugar coat it, This. Was. A. Very. Long. Week!

If you’re an educator, administrator, college-bound teen, current college student (or a parent who loves them), there’s a very good chance that you’re in a ‘code-yellow’ state of emergency right now, extremely anxious about how this is all gonna shake out next Fall.

I get it! You’re definitely not alone, so I’m going to use this email to bust a few myths and share some actual information and realistic tips, timelines and ideas to help you. 

After reading, if you have questions, or you’re unsure about what to do and how to proceed, please reach out to me. You can use this link to schedule some time to pick my brain (or to have me talk you off a proverbial ledge).

First piece of advice is a lot like last week’s advice. Consider the source. Neither your neighbor nor your favorite Facebook friend is likely an expert on your family’s college goals. Furthermore, even ‘legitimate’ news sources utilize attention-grabbing, but grossly inaccurate headlines that relentlessly stoke our fears, but contain very little useful information.

Here is but one of the many cases in point from this week: I received more than one frantic email from subscribers and clients about UCLA and Harvard not planning to open their campuses this Fall. Neither is true.

The culprit here was this headline from the Business Insider: ‘A Growing Number of Universities Aren’t Coming Back To Campus This Fall… here’s the list so far…’ 

The article mentions 3 community colleges and 3 small universities… and it mentions that the California Sate University System and Harvard Medical College have announced their intention to continue online learning through the Fall semester.

So no, neither UCLA (which is part of the University of California System) nor Harvard have finalized any decisions about the Fall. In fact, so far, these 6 schools and the CSU system’s 23 campuses stand alone among the more than 4,000 American Universities and Colleges.

The truth is this: the VAST majority of colleges and universities that have made any announcements about Fall have said that they are ‘working towards’,  ‘intending to’, or ‘planning to’ reopen their campuses this Fall. Hopefully they’ll be able to do so safely. Right now the question isn’t whether they will open, but how – with hybrid models and social distancing options under consideration.

As you know from my previous emails, this is consistent with what we’re hearing from our admissions contacts around the country. And now that they have a framework of guidelines from the CDC, they are doing everything they can to make a safe fall campus return possible. That said, we are already working on fall semester contingency plans for any of our students who choose to look into alternative learning/doing experiences. 

Now onto the College Board’s rough start to its online AP exam ‘experiment’. In short, it’s not working too well. As we had reported in March, instead of rescheduling or canceling this Spring’s AP exams, the College Board opted to issue an abbreviated, online exam (45 minutes max). The first of these exams took place throughout this week and will continue through next week. Aside from the obvious, ‘not apples to apples’ validity issue of a shortened online test, there are also significant concerns about the reliability of these tests. 

Here’s what’s been happening. Many students have had trouble both with logging in to take their exam AND/OR with submitting the results once they’ve completed the test. I heard several stories from counselors around the country whose students were unable to submit exams as their time expired.

This is yet another area where my life as an Education Professional and a Dad intersect. As I write this, my son barely ‘got to his exam on time.’ It took him 25 stressful minutes of restarting his computer, endless ‘request processing’ and ‘system busy – try later’ error messages to finally access his American History exam. Good thing I was aware of the challenges many students were facing, advising him to get an early start. He eventually got ‘in’ with just one minute to spare, bu the screenshot below is NOT what you want to see at 1:51 pm ET, just 9 minutes before the start of your AP US History Exam!

AP US Screenshot


Here are five last minute tips that may help you avoid (or overcome) a similar challenge:   

1. The College Board system allows you to ‘check into’ your exam 30 minutes before the actual start of the exam. You SHOULD! 

2. If possible, have a ‘back-up’ device, powered up and ready to go in case you have issues similar to my son’s. You may need to jump to that alternate device if you’re caught in the “Error Loading Data” vortex.

3. If you experience a problem with accessing your AP exam, screen shot the error message and email to yourself, and to your subject matter teacher and your school counselor if it’s necessary.

4. Although you are allotted 45 minutes for the exam, try to complete it and submit it at the 40-43 minute mark. It seems the bottle-neck and submission failures tend to occur more frequently when all students are trying to upload their exam results at the same time. Again, if you can’t submit your results, take a photo or screenshot of the exam and any error messages and send it to yourself, your teacher and/or your counselor if necessary.

5. Try to relax. I know it’s stressful, but it’s only a test. If you are unable to log in, or have a technical difficulty during the exam, and/or you can’t submit your results when you’ve finished, you should be allowed to take a make-up test!

6. Finally, this is a bonus tip for my younger readers – Learn to type!! There are great DIY typing programs online, and in a world where we will continue to see distance learning (and therefore distance testing), being able to efficiently use your keyboard will be an incredible advantage!!! In fact, I think typing (or keying), should become a mandatory learning objective in middle school (or earlier).

Hope these help – best of luck to all who will be taking AP exams next week! I have just one more comment for 11th graders specifically, before I can officially welcome the weekend.

I was able to open two additional seats for our upcoming College Application Virtual Camp. This leaves us with 3 remaining seats total! The first class is an orientation for students (and parents) and it meets this coming Wednesday, May 20 at 6:30 pm. Among the topics that we’ll be discussing on Wednesday are the changes you should expect this admissions cycle including:

  • How COVID-19 Will Impact Admit Rates and Enrollment Targets
  • A New, COVID-specific Prompt on the Common App
  • Self-reporting of Test Scores in a Test Optional World
  • How Spring 2020 Grades Will Be Evaluated by Colleges
  • What Admissions Officers Are Advising Students to Do Today!

Most importantly, all enrolled students will have their Common App, essay and resume completed by the end of the course on June 17.

You can click here to review the syllabus and to learn more. And remember, we have only 3 spots remaining so if you are thinking of registering your rising 12th grader, better do it quickly! We’re closing registration on Sunday.


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