January College Search Guide

University of London. | Courtesy photo

The road to college

By May S. Ruiz

This new year starts with more warnings and worries about a “twindemic” — cases of the seasonal flu combined with coronavirus infections — that could overwhelm hospitals, strain already overtaxed health care workers, and deplete vital resources. The impact of the virus was felt in every aspect of American life — from the economy, to education, to our mental and physical well-being, among others.

On the school front, remote learning became the new normal and parents, a larger percentage of whom are mothers, have taken on the additional responsibility of homeschooling their children. While it is helping prevent the spread of the virus, parents are getting burned out and younger children are having difficulty focusing. At the same time, not all kids have access to reliable internet, and some who do have access are struggling to keep up with schoolwork.

There was a constant tug-of-war among parents, teachers, staff, and the government on to how best deliver teaching in the face of the pandemic and then resolve the ensuing learning crisis. Two days before the end of 2020, as reported by the L.A. Times, Gov. Newsom announced a $2-billion package of incentives to encourage a return to in-person classes for California elementary school students as early as mid-February. However, as the report pointed out, given the alarming rate of infections over the region, it remains to be seen if districts can reasonably make this happen. Distance learning may still be our reality for the foreseeable future.               

Fortunately, several tutoring services are available for parents and students who need help. Find one that offers options to fit your children’s specific need and your family’s budget. A company called Mundo Academy provides excellent tutoring services in the Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley area. Likewise, socially-minded high school and college students have created free tutoring services and learning platforms to help children during the coronavirus pandemic. Two of these organizations include Sailors Learning and Wave Learning Festival.                     

If you’re exhausted, as most of us are at this time, please reach out for assistance. The CDC has put together a resource kit for parents, divided by age group, to help them ensure their children’s well-being. The site also has links to other resources that cover various concerns. Another CDC page is dedicated to helping parents manage stress during the coronavirus pandemic.           

Needless to say, the pandemic has only made the already complicated college application process all the more nerve-racking. I hope this college guide helps in some way.                                  

| Courtesy photo


Typically, the beginning of the year marks the halfway point in the schoolyear. First semester grades will soon be released, if they have not been sent out yet. If your ninth graders’ marks are not great, they will need to use the second semester to better them as it’s the end-of-year grades that show on the transcript. The College Board hasn’t been able to offer standardized testing because of the pandemic and some universities have dropped their SAT requirements, so a student’s GPA is the single most influential component of the college application. Admissions officers only have your children’s GPA to gauge their college-readiness and success.          


This is your student’s second year, and by this time they should have fully transitioned into high school. They need to put extra effort into weak subjects and solidify grades in the second semester.


The second semester of junior year is significant as it is the beginning of the college application process. Students should have already started doing their research about the colleges and can start doing virtual tours, which might have to replace the usual campus visit. Some useful websites include and  


All college applications should have already been sent out for the Jan. 1 regular decision/admission deadline. Some universities, like Georgetown, have a later deadline. Some schools also have ED (Early Decision) II. Parents should already have filed their income tax returns; get ready to submit FAFSA. Apply for scholarships. There are several websites to help you with your search like,,,

As much as I’m tempted to say “Tell your kids to breathe a sigh of relief, the hard part is over,” the truth is, the waiting part induces much anxiety. And, oftentimes, it’s worse because you or your children have no control over it. Just be there for your kids to remind them that they have done a great job and they should let the admissions professionals do theirs.

The months from January through March can still be a time for your children to do something to help their cause. Mid-January is when high schools get their first semester grades finalized. If your student’s mid-year report is particularly spectacular, this could be a very good development especially if they are applying to a highly selective college. When your children’s high school sends the grades, have your children follow up with an email to the area representative telling them about their hard work and interest in that college.

If your children have been deferred at a college when they applied through early action or early decision, it is advisable for them to send in an additional teacher recommendation, but only if this supports their application. Likewise, if your student has received any notable honors or made any significant achievement, they should let the admissions officers know by email.     

Having done all these, you and your children will now just have to wait patiently for the process to play itself out.           

January 4, 2021

About Author

May S. Ruiz May S. Ruiz was born in the Philippines. Her mother, a school teacher, and her father, the press liaison officer for American Embassy in Manila, instilled in their children the importance of getting a good education. Appreciation for books and the arts, and experiencing various cultures have been her lifelong pursuits. After college she immigrated to the U.S., where she met her husband. They have a daughter who has the same passion for learning and literature, and being a responsible global citizen.

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