Along with other uncertainties, the coronavirus pandemic has left prospective college students anxious about what the future of their education will look like. While current high school seniors are now faced with the possibility of transitioning to a full-time online college education, the members of the junior class are reviewing updated standardized testing policies, attending virtual campus tours and webinars, communicating with counselors online, and hoping for the best.
Social distancing policies have certainly complicated the college admissions process. High schoolers must work to craft their resumes, brainstorm essay responses, and finalize their college lists without having access to campus tours, standardized testing, or extracurriculars. Because SAT and ACT dates have either been cancelled or postponed, many colleges, including the UC schools and the Cal State system, are shifting to test-optional policies.
In a webinar presented on May 6th, the School’s college counselling team informed juniors about how they are tackling the college application process in response to the coronavirus. One of the major adjustments involves shifting to “deconstructed” college blasts. Typically, the School’s college blasts are in-person sessions that take place over summer to assist rising juniors with resume drafting, interview preparation, and more. However, they are now shifting to fully online modules. College counselor Kora Shin clarified in the webinar, “The Google Classroom modules are meant to point students where they should be and where they will be at various points in the next few months. Remember, this is still individualized.”
Though the class of 2021 may be entering unknown territory when it comes to the newly revised admissions process, colleges emphasize that they are completely understanding of the situation. Jeremiah Quinlan, Dean of Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid at Yale University, assured students that “a community’s response to the outbreak—and a student’s personal circumstance associated with it—will not negatively affect a student’s chances of admission.”
Holistic reviewing processes are taking on a whole new meaning this year. Students who have gone through (or are currently going through) the college admissions process have heard the term “holistic review” being thrown around constantly, but what does it actually look like? Holistic review refers to a selection process in which a broad range of factors are considered, including extracurriculars and personal attributes, not just academics. This year, personal essays and student transcripts will be the major focus of a candidate’s application, since standardized testing is either postponed or cancelled. Though some high schools have shifted to a pass/fail system, college admissions counselors will still be able to gauge a student’s academic progress throughout their first three years of high school. Some colleges even say that it is very likely that their supplements will include a question relating to how a student spent their time in quarantine and how the pandemic affected them.
Along with the change in reviewing applications, some colleges and universities are also altering the way they accept AP and IB credit. The College Board published a statement addressing student concerns regarding AP credit and testing: “We’re confident that the vast majority of Higher Ed institutions will award credit as they have in the past. We’ve spoken with hundreds of institutions across the country who support our solution for this year’s AP exams.”
Over 100 schools have confirmed that they will accept AP and IB credits from this year’s exams. While the more selective universities state that they will be accepting scores of 4 and 5 on AP exams and scores of 6 or 7 on IB exams, others state that they will also be willing to even accept a 3 on an AP or a 5 on the IB.
Due to social distancing policies, the majority of the country’s colleges and universities have cancelled on-campus interviews. This also means that international students will be negatively impacted because of travel restrictions. However, some schools will be offering sign-ups for Skype interviews with local alumni and admissions officers this fall.
Colleges and universities still depend on the tuition of the students they admit, and while that may mean capping the amount of gap years or regulating financial assistance, they are still relying on student attendance to supply revenue. Some schools plan on continuing in-person classes while regulating the amount of students allowed? on campus. Others have considered having alternating sessions in which only a small portion of the student body is allowed on campus per day.
For rising seniors applying for fall 2021 admission, there are a multitude of ways to stay engaged and informed on the college process. Attend virtual information sessions and tours, begin brainstorming possible essay responses, and get creative with extracurricular activities. Visit college websites, sign up for college mailing lists, research scholarship opportunities, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Everyone is navigating this process together.