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What’s Next for the Class of 2021?

Ever since the quarantine started, many students had questions on some of the events that were going to occur this year such as the junior ring ceremony, graduation, prom, taking the SAT/ACT, and other concerns.

When it comes to the class of 2021, those who bought a junior ring were anticipating the ceremony and many were preparing for their SAT’s or any AP exams they might have. Many are left in the dark, questioning what might have happened to the events they were waiting for.

The students who purchased junior rings wondered if there was still going to be a ceremony at all. Luckily, there will be a junior ring ceremony, but the ceremony will not occur until the fall of the next school year. For now, the students are able to pick up their ring at the Class of 2021 Ring Delivery Car Parade. The students will be able to pick up their ring from May 15th through May 19th. All students must make an appointment before going and the employees of Herff Jones will give students the ring in their cars. Their employees will have masks and gloves to ensure the safety of all students and parents. After receiving their ring students will be allowed to drive to one of three rings that are usually used during the ceremony and take a picture in front of it. The photo will be taken one by one, while each student waits in their car, by a professional photographer that will stand behind their camera, six feet away from the student the entire time and will not be allowed to take a photo with the student or parent’s phone due to safety issues. There are some fun prizes students can win while getting their ring such as $300 for the car decorated with the most school spirit, second place wins $200 and third wins $100, and a free class of 2021 shirt if the student writes #HJCLASSRING on their car window.

Many juniors have mixed feelings about this event. Allison Hernandez shares her opinion on the event, “My view on the ring car parade has me a little down because I won’t get to have a ceremony at least until later. But I do feel very happy that I’ll get to have my ring before it happens. I’ll cherish that moment forever.” 

With this transition to digital learning, juniors have adapted to this new environment at home with many things at hand. Juniors are expected to keep up their grades because colleges value junior year grades the most and to make sure their GPA stays high when they apply next fall, all during a global pandemic. This pressure also adds on when it’s difficult to reach out to teachers and with such reliance on self-discipline and time management proving important during these times.

“COVID-19 has affected my classes immensely. For example, my language class has become more rigorous and it’s been hard to communicate with my teacher. I’m afraid that we may not have the same experiences as passed classes because we still may need to take certain precautions,” said Angelya Blanco. With students trying to get used to these new types of online learning applications like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, it has also affected teachers. Teachers have experienced Zoom-bombers and internet trolls bombard their classes. This has made affected classes much more private, some teachers have made all comments in the chat send directly to them, limiting interaction with other students. 

Other juniors planned to pursue summer internships in order to gain some work experience, or pick up a summer job to save money for college or senior year activities. Due to the spread of COVID-19, many businesses have canceled their internships or switched to a digital internship process. Students are left to decide whether they still want the opportunity even if it is at home or they will have to come up with new ways to stay entertained during the summer. Summer programs are a great way to get involved in your interests and stay busy over the summer. Colleges tend to look favorably upon summer programs because of the formative experiences they can produce. Many programs, particularly those that involve hands-on research or lab experience have been canceled or moved online. 

“I had not been officially accepted to any summer programs, but I did apply to a couple. Those have since been canceled. I know some others have transitioned to an online alternative, which is considerate. Personally, I will spend my summer taking a dual enrollment course and continuing to volunteer remotely by tutoring online. As of now, I am not doing any summer programs or internships. Nonetheless, I have a few activities keeping me busy and preparing me for the next school year,” said Saul Balcarcel. For students that have had summer programs canceled on them or internships fall through, it isn’t the end of the world. Like Saul, students can still sign up for dual enrollment courses or get creative and pick up a new hobby. The important thing is to use this opportunity to show how you adapt to such unforeseeable changes. 

One question many juniors have in mind is what will happen to the SAT, ACT, and AP testing. Juniors who have not yet taken their SAT or ACT are worried about their prospects because college applications usually start in the fall. Juniors in that situation can relax because they still have the opportunity to take these exams. In fact, they will be the first to take them. 

Ms. Diez, the CAP Advisor, describes how testing will continue during these times, “As of today, Thursday, April 30, students can take the ACT on June 13 or July 18, as well as in the 2020-2021 Calendar Year. Starting in August, students will have the opportunity to take an SAT National Test every month from August to December.”

These new dates provide a grand opportunity for juniors to take this moment to study and get the highest score possible during these dates. College Board was quick to develop a plan for students to take at-home AP exams and has done what they can to continue to offer college credit for the exams.

“According to the AP Coronavirus Updates on the College Board website, students will still be taking their AP Exams either online using any electronic device they have access to, or students have the option to write their responses by hand and submit a photo. Website: https://apcoronavirusupdates.collegeboard.org/students,” said Ms. Diez. 

Juniors are required to take the U.S History EOC as a graduation requirement. For now, Miami-Dade County Public Schools board has canceled all state-wide standardized exams, including this one. There is still debate about whether or not it will occur when the class of 2021 comes back for school but self-isolation is the priority for now.

In terms of IB juniors, there is pressure to learn topics for IB tests next year. “The IB organization has prioritized student safety and well-being during this time. They canceled the May exams and will be issuing grades based on the assessments that the students have already completed. Any junior who was scheduled to test this year (mostly in Math Studies) will receive a final score based on their internal assessment. The juniors are still responsible for all other assessments and will be testing next May,” said Ms. Graham, the International Baccalaureate lead teacher.  While IB Seniors are not able to take their final examinations, juniors have to self-teach and study for next year’s exams with online guidance, which results to be difficult. 

Now many juniors have wondered if colleges will go test-optional and the impact these exams will have on their college applications since some will be taking their SAT/ACT during these moments. Some colleges, like the University of Chicago, have been test-optional for years now but other colleges, like the Ivy Leagues and other T20 schools have been trying to integrate test-optional into their admissions (e.g. Harvard and Cornell). For rising seniors, there may be more of an emphasis on college application essays than ever before. Test scores could still be a strong determining factor but we will likely see more leniency towards applications from colleges this upcoming admissions cycle. However, juniors need to be careful with the types of topics they choose to write their essays about because there may be a potential oversaturation of COVID-19 stories and therefore would necessitate unique accounts to stand out. 

Extracurriculars have been severely affected by COVID-19 because many of them operate primarily in-school. Around this time, clubs and other community projects take place in school or out of school. However, due to the social distancing guidelines that have been implemented at both a state and federal level, there are fewer opportunities to gain community hours and experiences. Now is the time to act on individual passion projects that could benefit college resumes for juniors. “For community hours, that’s the part that hurt me the most. I was planning to get community hours during this time and it’s a struggle.  I will try to get a head start with my college essays or other personal projects like my IB art exhibit. Another thing I might do is a YouTube channel for people who struggle with AP classes. I hope to execute those ideas over the summer. The class of 2021 will have more self-improvement projects. It might be more individual-based and more personally driven. I think that where there is a will, there is a way,” said Josh Lian. 

We wish the class of 2021 the best of luck in college admissions next year!

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