New College Realities with Covid-19

April 29, 2020
Posted in Student Tips
April 29, 2020 ACS

As the coronavirus upends our daily lives, weighs down our health-care system, and threatens our most vulnerable citizens, the subject of college admissions might seem trivial. We all have other things to think about right now, but it’s very important to our high schoolers.

    1. Accept the New Normal. The popularity and preference for online options will likely be the new norm as a result of this pandemic. We now have a digital learning lab that is millions strong. Since we don’t know how long it will take for testing and vaccines to be readily available, we don’t really know how long the necessity for virtual educational options will continue.
    2. Many colleges will accept Pass/Fail grades for core classes during spring 2020 – and without tests and vaccines – this could potentially go into fall 2020 and even 2021.
    3. Some colleges are making the SAT and ACT tests optional for the Class of 2021 due to Covid-19. The UC and Cal State systems have announced that they will no longer require the SAT or ACT for applicants applying for fall 2021 admission. Boston University, Amherst College, and Williams College made similar announcements. Santa Clara University has dropped their SAT/ACT requirement for two years, About a third of colleges nationwide have taken this position. Students shouldn’t ignore this golden opportunity to shine with good test scores!
    4. The SAT has now cancelled their test dates through the rest of the semester, but they are adding a September date, so students will be able to take it in August, September, October, November and December this fall.
    5. Need and merit money will likely be in shorter supply, especially with so many families struggling financially due to the virus. Students need to work harder to stand out to admissions committees with a strong application including test scores.
    6. Preparedness and flexibility are more important now than ever. The ACT and SAT are working on getting online. This will be a new format, and may have some hiccups.
      Many college tours, Admitted Students Days, Orientation, Registration, and Placement Tests are going online. Continue to be as tireless and enthusiastic with your online research and virtual opportunities as you would have been in person. Check out
    7. Students should contact Campus Visitors Centers at the colleges they are interested in applying to in order to get on their mailing list. Many schools will also have Live Chats, Zoom meetings and webinars available for interested students. Take advantage of these opportunities.
    8. Time management will be more important than ever as high school students go online. Self -starters will love having more time and freedom whereas other students may need more guidance and accountability. They can get an early start on test prep. This is also wonderful preparation for college where less time is spent in the classroom, and students experience much more free time.
    9. Juniors should also be prepared for a rocky, unpredictable fall semester of senior year. The current pandemic may come in waves. School closures and renewed periods of social distancing may be a part of our lives for a year or more while a vaccine is developed.
    10. Some private colleges and universities are working harder to encourage students to commit to their schools for this fall. For example, the University of the Pacific is offering some accepted students $1450 a semester for 4 years if they commit to attending their campus by the May 1st national deadline. There is concern about enrollment in the fall, and sustainability with the losses of this spring.
    11. Many current juniors are wondering how to distinguish themselves. The underlying attributes that internships or programs reveal about a candidate, i.e., passion/expertise in a field, commitment to a community, leadership experience, are really what colleges are looking for anyway, and those attributes are as relevant as ever. Find creative ways to still express them during these times. That’s the opportunity in this adversity.
    12. Writing skills will be more critical than ever as activities and essays will be more important for 2021 students. Give yourself a head start – start essays this summer.

In summary, Covid-19 has challenged the headline of the traditional application. GPAs are not going to be simple to calculate as some high schools go to a pass/fail grading system to reflect the compromised education and evaluation standards for remote learning during spring 2020. Test dates are being canceled. More colleges are going test-optional. Merit and need based money could be in shorter supply.

This is the opportunity for students to stand out and show how they respond to adversity. They can use this time to help others, and invest in their future, and show colleges how they positively respond to challenging and unprecedented events.



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