Last updated: June 26, 2020

Spring semester usually brings about a lot of stress for high school students. Most students are receiving decision letters and making important choices about the next four years of their life. The process itself is hard enough without a pandemic. As COVID-19 continues to shape our lives for the foreseeable future, it also shapes the college admissions landscape.

What’s changed in college admissions since COVID-19?

At the moment, most Offices of Admissions are in flux. Universities are trying to take every known precaution to the spread of coronavirus. As a result, most college campuses are closed and most college faculty members are working from home. Every school has taken different precautions to better assist prospective students. 

Within the coming months, students should expect to hear from their universities about how they plan to approach the Fall semester. Business Insider has compiled a list of top universities and their plans for the upcoming school semester. According to US News, many schools plan to open, but the college experience will drastically change. Universities such as Brown, Carnegie Mellon, and many other top institutions are exploring many options to keep students safe including hybrid online and in-person or alternating semesters. University presidents will continue to make adjustments as the country responds to COVID-19. 

Revisiting your financial aid 

If a student’s parent(s) lost their job due to COVID-19, they should notify the Office of Financial Aid immediately. Students will need to renegotiate their financial aid package. The Office of Financial Aid might be able to offer students more money in the form of grants, scholarships, or loans to cover these unexpected changes. How each school chooses to monetarily respond to your new hardships may cause you to reconsider your options. Therefore, students should speak to someone as soon as possible so they have more time to make a thoughtful decision based on financial award packages. 

Some schools have even revved up their financial aid awards, including UCLA. The university raised over $5 billion to award more scholarships and hire more staff to address prospective student concerns. 

New college decisions

Waitlisted students should also expect an answer from their reach schools soon as many colleges are dipping into their waitlists to ensure they fill freshman classes. In fact, Cornell recently took 99 students off of the waitlist. Other schools are “waiving deposit requirements, especially for foreign students” (according to The New York Times). Forbes considers this a plus as it gives students the opportunity to attend a college that may have been out of reach. They also predict that colleges will become very competitive about trying to increase yield for the best students. Students can use their competitive applications as leverage with the more selective schools they gain admission from. 

How to prep for college without access to a college advisor (11th grade)

Students should still be preparing themselves for college applications, even if they are not in school. 11th-grade students should pay close attention to the news as many schools are updating their admissions requirements for the fall 2021 application season to respond to national standardized test cancellations and changes. 

College testing opportunities have also recently changed. The ACT recently added three new national test dates to provide more opportunities to take the exam. From now until the end of 2020, there will be eight national test dates. Similarly, the College Board is now administering SAT tests every month through the end of the calendar year beginning in August. They also plan to add dates in January of 2021, if demand remains high. At this moment, they are also postponing the administration of at-home digital SATs. 

As a result of these cancellations and changes, many schools including Case Western Reserve and all nine University of California schools —including UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego— have announced that they will omit the SAT/ACT requirement for students applying next year. The New York Times released a comprehensive list of schools that have gone test-optional for the 2021 school year. The list of schools include:

  • Harvard University

  • Yale University

  • Brown University

  • Cornell University

  • Columbia University

  • University of Pennsylvania 

  • Vanderbilt University

  • Dartmouth University 

  • Williams College

  • Amherst College

  • Tufts University

  • Northeastern University

  • Northwestern  University 

  • University of Notre Dame

  • Georgetown University 

  • Boston University

  • Vassar College

  • Case Western Reserve University

  • University of California

  • Pomona College 

  • Duke University 

  • Davidson College

  • Haverford College

  • Rhodes College

  • University of Washington 

  • University of Oregon

  • Oregon State University

  • Scripps College

  • Texas Christian University

  • Trinity University

  • Tulane University

Other schools are eliminating the option of sending scores altogether. California Institute of Technology recently enacted a two-year moratorium in which they will not require or consider SAT/ACT test scores. They also eliminated their SAT subject test requirements similar to MIT

Students should view these dropped requirements as an opportunity to apply to more selective universities. Many colleges utilize the holistic admissions process to evaluate applicants, so students can use their grades, extracurricular activities, and essays to stand out. Students should use this extra time to deepen their involvement and improve their grades as they will hold more weight in the college admissions process than previous years. 

If they haven’t already, students should begin building a preliminary college list. Students should use CollegeBoard’s Big Future Search Tool to explore colleges with the majors, location, and campus culture they like. Although schools may feel different and distant now, students should still focus on their education. Junior year is a very important time as it is the last full year of grade admissions officers will see when applications are submitted. In the coming years, admissions officers will understand how COVID-19 affected students’ ability to learn. However, it isn’t an excuse for students to let their grades slip. If a straight A’s student’s grades dropped to C’s during coronavirus, it will not reflect well on the student. 

Students should also use this free time to work on their personal statement. There are thousands of resources online that can help students understand how to approach the personal statement. Johns Hopkins University has an Essays That Worked with examples of successful personal statements along with admissions officer feedback about why the student was accepted. Students should use resources online to help them brainstorm and get started on the writing process. Before they know it, it’ll be the college application season.  

Grades are still very important. Colleges and universities will receive a final transcript once students matriculate into their college of choice. Colleges will be understanding of pass/fail grades as these were the school’s decision rather than the students’. Students should not be worried about submitting transcripts with pass/fail grades. 

How to prep for college without access to a college advisor (12th grade)

Similar to juniors, seniors must pay close attention to their emails and dream schools as university administrators are implementing new policies at this very moment. 

For example, Penn State announced that they will extend their application deadline and “remain flexible” about student’s applications. Admissions Community Cultivating Equity and Peace Today has created a list of all the schools that have extended their deadline. Similarly, according to CNN, more than 200 schools have delayed their deposit deadline to at least June 1st. The National Association for College Admissions Counseling has created a resource for students to remain up-to-date on how schools are responding to the coronavirus. If the school students wish to attend has not extended their deadline, students should contact the Office of Admissions and ask for an extension. Students should use this time to speak to their parents and make the best decision for them.  

Seniors should do their best to remain positive and active in schools. Colleges will examine their grades even after they have been accepted. Even if they have pass/fail grades at this moment, it is important to remain studious and proactive about their studies. This is not the time to catch senioritis. 

To stay up to date on all things college admissions or inquire about our services, schedule a consultation down below.