Impact of Coronavirus on College Admissions

Sep 26, 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most colleges and universities had detailed admissions guidelines designed to present holistic pictures of their applicants. Some of the benchmarks they used to form these snapshots included a student's GPA, test scores, their school's academic rigor, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, volunteer and work experience, as well as their essay.

But, the pandemic has changed everything. For instance, some high schools are no longer calculating grades, and most extracurricular activities are called off. Also, students could not get summer internships, take part in summer programs, prep for or take standardized tests, volunteer, and sometimes even work. Therefore, several students feel like their applications are not as strong as they could be.  

Impacts of COVID-19

In fact, according to a survey by Art & Science Group in partnership with the College Board, about 45% of rising seniors said that COVID-19 had impacted their qualifications or the strength of their applications. Around 30% of students were not able to participate in summer educational programs.

Also, 21% of Black students and 13% of White students said their grades had been affected by the pandemic. For the time being, 23% of students from the lowest-income group in the survey revealed they hadn't been able to work to save money for college.

Many overall cancellations at the time of pandemic this past spring and summer have prevented many students from prepping for or taking the ACT and SAT exams. In fact, at the time of the survey, two-thirds of the respondents had not yet taken the SAT, and nearly three-quarters had not yet taken the ACT.

And, about 51% of underrepresented minority students, 51% of low-income students, and 51% of first-generation college students were less likely than others to have taken the exams. For this reason, the class of 2021 is expected to submit at a very great extent different college applications than those who graduated in 2019 and 2020.

What to Expect

Colleges have had to redesign to meet this constantly changing scenery of student applicants. Some universities have made their application requirements test-optional, designed virtual campus tours, and are deliberately engaged in leveling the playing field as much as possible to fit the challenges students are going through—especially because some areas of the nation have been hit worst by the coronavirus than others.

Let’s have a closer look at what your student can expect when applying to college this fall and winter.

Many colleges have decided to wait and see how the pandemic impacts high schools this year before taking the ultimate decision about whether or not to implement a test-optional policy.

Besides that, a severe number of colleges and universities have taken the final decision to become test-optional already. According to the National Center for Open and Fair Testing (FairTest), more than 1,600 authorized colleges and universities have made tests optional for 2021 admissions.

Therefore, before you spend any money for your child to take the ACT or the SAT, you must visit the FairTest website to determine if the schools your child is applying to are test-optional this year. Also, remember just because a school is test-optional, this does not mean they are test-blind.

In other words, if your child outperforms on SAT and ACT, be sure that they include their test scores with their application. This will nourish their application and make them stronger candidates.

However, if you struggle with standardized testing or test anxiety, you may want to consider skipping the tests and highlighting their other qualifications.

If your student is evaluating not to submit his standardized test scores, then they need to make sure the rest of their application is vital. While not submitting scores is a good option for students who don't do well with standardized tests, it also means that the rest of their application will be more heavily weighted.

So, if your student thinks their application will be better by including standardized test scores—and anyhow your student can take a test before the application deadline—then, by all means, take the test and submit the scores.

Canceled or Postponed Tests

While taking SAT and ACT, some students will find it easier to schedule and take tests than others. Both the ACT and the SAT have scheduled exam dates but are leaving it up to each test site to determine whether they will offer the test. Both organizations suggest that students monitor their testing locations to ensure the tests are still being provided as planned.

If you plan to take the SAT or an SAT subject test, you can visit the College Board's website to determine if your testing location has canceled a test. The site also indicates whether or not a make-up examination will be offered.

As for the ACT, they do not have a list of cancellations. But you can research your test center to be sure the test is being offered before scheduling your examination.

Both organizations also motivate students who plan to take the standardized tests to register as soon as possible for the exams they want to take. With limited test dates and locations—also a backlog of students who could not take their exams in the spring or summer—the availability is limited. They also both encourage students to wear face masks when taking their exams.

Virtual Campus Tours

Students have always shown interest in the university by taking a tour of the campus. But, with many campuses closed, admissions officials have started offering virtual campus tours for prospective students. Several colleges and universities are also reaching students through virtual question and answer sessions, personalized emails, and social media.

Let’s check out some ways through which students can make the most of this situation:

  • Students have to develop a list of the schools they’re interested in.
  • Parents have to encourage their children to reach out to their admissions counselor at their specific schools and start developing a relationship—even if it is only through email and virtual calls.
  • Reach out to a teacher or two within their selected major to introduce themselves and ask about their courses.
  • Follow their top picks on social media to collect information and show interest in the school—especially if your student likes or re-shares the content they post. Remember to clean up your social media account before following your top colleges.

Final Word from AP Guru

COVID-19 has changed the college admissions process this year, and still, however, there are some unintended positives to all these changes. First, the pandemic has leveled the playing field when it comes to taking tours to the college and doing lots of extras to improve the college application that many low-income students cannot afford. No one is doing these things, so it's forcing students to get creative to make their applications stand out.

Also, since many campuses are closed, it's much easier for students to get in touch with admissions professionals because they aren't traveling much. As a result, be sure your student reaches out to them and builds a relationship. Plus, they are likely to be very empathetic to the things students are experiencing because COVID-19 has upended their lives.

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