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How will the Coronavirus Affect my Education?

MAR 26, 2020 • 10 min read

A Q&A with Crimson Education CEO, Jamie Beaton

As the Coronavirus continues to spread around the world, there is a lot of uncertainty around how it will impact students’ academic performance, ability to participate in extracurricular activities and eventually their college applications.

As a company focused on the benefits of online learning, we are also more than aware of how unsettling these times of uncertainty can be, as parents and students try to figure out the best way to move forward.

Last week, Crimson Education CEO, Jamie Beaton held a live webinar for the Asian region answering questions about the virus and how it may affect school classes, extracurriculars, college applications and more. The webinar received a huge response with interested students and parents asking Jamie a limitless number of questions which we could not cover in the webinar itself.

As such we are providing this blog to provide clarity and support for families globally (give the virus’ spread to other geographical regions) to help negotiate this difficult time. Most importantly as Jamie points out, there are ways to carve a productive path - even in times where disruption appears to rule - and ultimately this period should not deter you from, or hinder your long-term goals.

Please keep in mind that the situation is changing daily and while all of the information below is accurate at the time of publishing, things may change faster than we can update this blog! Thus, please use this as a rough guide to answer some of your bigger questions but not as an alternative to daily news updates.

Finally, you will see the below Q&A is broken into three categories - academics, extracurricular and leadership activities and university applications. This is largely because the bulk of the questions related to these areas.

Thank you for reading,

The Crimson Education Team

Academics:

Q: What do I do if my SAT has been cancelled, or if future SAT dates are cancelled?

Standardized exams tend to have many students sit in one big room, breathing the same air for hours, thus it’s likely these exams will be postponed or cancelled over the next few months, especially in heavily affected areas.

If your SAT has already been canceled, use this time to practice - you can even sit a full length exam under real time conditions on the day you were supposed to take the exam to see how you would have gone. The more you familiarize yourself with the exam, the better you will do!

Usually, I recommend students only focus on the SAT or the ACT depending on which test they naturally better at, as opposed to splitting their study time in half to try to ace both exams; however, desperate times call for desperate measures.

If you are applying in the next cycle, we recommend registering for both tests, and then turning up to whichever isn’t canceled. While this requires more studying, you don’t want to leave anything up to chance.

If you are unable to sit the SAT or the ACT before university applications are due, either contact the schools you are applying to and ask for an extension on the standardised test due date, or consider flying to a country where you can take one of the exams.

More on the SAT and ACT...

In order to apply to most US universities, you are required to sit either the SAT or the ACT. Luckily, universities view the SAT and the ACT equally and do not favor one exam over the other.

The main differences between the two exams are:

  • The ACT includes a Science section (although this is more reading comprehension)
  • The SAT has more time per question
  • The SAT includes a Math section in which you cannot use your calculator. - The ACT allows a calculator in all Math sections
  • The ACT Math section is harder than the SAT

For more information on the SAT and ACT, click here:

Q: What do I do if my high school exams are cancelled, or postponed, and predicted grades or transcripts cannot be given in time for university applications?

While this question is quite speculative at this point, what I can say is that universities may extend their deadlines for when materials are due. Schools may also give you a predicted grade earlier than normal, and the Coronavirus may be fully contained by the time applications are due.

However, waiting to see what happens is extremely risky. Instead, there are better options that will put you in a safer position:

  • Email the universities and let them know your situation: They may extend their admissions deadline, or even defer your application.
  • Consider taking a gap year and apply a year later: However, make sure you do something to boost your candidacy during this time. Some current students are already taking extra A Levels in order to improve their academic profile, working on unique extracurricular activities and making sure they spend some time studying for their standardized exams.
  • Diversify your academic subjects and curriculum: For example, if you are an IB student, studying A Level or AP subjects will strengthen your academic profile and increase the likelihood of having an impressive range of academic qualifications under your belt. It is possible to study for these outside of school, which means you can go at your own pace, but it’s important that you have strong tutors to guide you along the way.

Q: My school is currently undergoing online schooling but I feel like I want to take on more academic rigour during this time. If I am already studying one curriculum through school, would you recommend using my extra time to increase my current grades, or take other AP subjects / another curriculum for variety?

If you are pushed for time, focus on the curriculum you already study. It is better to get top grades in one curriculum, as opposed to average grades in multiple. In the US, this is especially important, as they ask for your class ranking and your rank is usually calculated through only your grades.

US universities want to know how well you did relative to your environment. They’d rather take someone who was ranked 1st at their school, instead of 40th, as they want people who are best / local champions – someone who can do really well when they’re given all the resources. During high school, I was very focused on getting Dux at my school, as I knew this would have a big impact on how I would do in my applications to places like Harvard.

If you intend to take IB eventually, use your spare time to study a different curriculum prior to starting IB. For example, AS economics and AS computer science are both great, as most people will need this knowledge in their career at some point. It only takes around 4 months to study for these and you can sit them at a Pearson Exam Centre, which enables you to gain that qualification before you even start IB. This is an easy way to differentiate yourself.

Additionally, studying extra subjects through a different curriculum is likely to help towards the preparation of your school’s curriculum.

Q: Please rank the following in terms of what universities favour / what you recommend pursuing: IB, AP, A Levels, your local school curriculum, online courses through edX/cousera, online summer programs, online competitions.

There is not a straightforward answer to this, as it depends on a variety of things, especially each student’s current candidacy. However, in terms of academic rigor, this is how I would rank them on a global level: A levels, IB, AP, online courses e.g.CS50, summer programs.

That said, if you are a star who aces your local curriculum then that’s great too. For example a high ATAR will resonate with admissions officers (admissions officers are very savvy and know a lot about international school curriculums). Online competitions are difficult to rank, as the more reputable they are and the better you do in them, the better they will look on your application.

If you are taking a local curriculum, you can take a couple of AP classes to rank you in two curriculums - and this also shows great academic firepower. If you have no time and excel in your local curriculum then you should be okay, but pushing harder and taking extra APs decreases risk. (This is analogous to what happens in NZ - many NZ students who want to study overseas take extra APs to compensate for NZQA - NZ’s high school exams).

If you are short on time, take less rigorous subjects at school to enable more time for APs or other international qualifications, or even consider transferring to a school with a different curriculum.

Q: In general, how long does it take to prepare for an AP or A Level exam? E.g. If I started studying in my final year of school, would I have enough time to prepare for the exam?

This depends on the subject and whether you receive tutoring or not. As an example, you could learn A Level Economics in 40 hours, however for Further Math it could take 80, 90 hours. However, I would not recommend picking up A Levels if you are in your final year of IB.

In my own experience, my high school English teacher, Mr Walker, tutored me for 2 years. As a result, I got Top in the World in both English Language and English Literature, Top in NZ, and received an Outstanding Scholarship in NCEA English. He’s helped many students score Top in the World and can teach in a compressed time. Mr Walker is now Crimson Education Global Academy’s Head of English.

CGA is designed with my academic philosophy in mind, that if you want to supercharge your learning speed with highly personalised learning with kids of a similar level, you’re able to do this.

Q: If I took extra A Level subjects, or studied a curriculum outside of school, would I do the exam at my school or at an external test centre?

It depends what exam boards your school has. If they have Edexcel, then you can sit the exam at your school, otherwise you can sit exams at an exam centre near you. Keep in mind that different test centres have different dates for exams.

Q: Aside from competing in Olympiads and completing online courses, are there any other academic awards / activities you recommend striving for during this time?

When choosing competitions to participate in, it’s important to think about the types of competitions you apply to. If you’re average at math, don’t participate in the Math Olympiad, as it only really counts if you place.

Below are a few ideas:

  • VEX robotics
  • Future Problem Solving
  • A Level classes
  • CS50 (Harvard’s online Introduction to Computer Science course)
  • Online research competitions
  • Journals
  • Regional applied math competitions
  • Princeton Math Competition
  • Entrepreneurship using data – for example, one of our students created an app showing how many packets of cigarettes you’re smoking per day due to the air pollution level

Make sure you keep an eye out for the next installment of this blog series where Jamie talks through ECL Acitivities and how to tackle these during this period.

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