The Changing Landscape in College Admissions


College applications have always been known as a common source of stress, and of course, the pandemic has not made things any easier. COVID-19 had drastically changed many aspects of our everyday lives, including the college admissions process. Among other things, many colleges have decided to switch to test-optional and prospective students can no longer tour campuses. Although COVID-19 has definitely disrupted the normal flow of activities, there are still some positive aspects to the changes made in college admissions.

First, a total of 75% of colleges have decided to go test-optional, meaning that those who apply to the colleges included in that percentage are not required to take the ACT or SAT. Additionally, a handful of schools have chosen to go test-blind, meaning that even if an applicant took either the ACT or SAT, admissions officers would not look at the student’s score. “Other schools are realizing that because they are test-optional, and because some of their Merit scholarships were impacted by tests as well that they have had to make some testing changes to their Merit scholarship programs,” Head of College Advising Jami Silver said. 

Another aspect of the admissions process that has changed is the ability to tour a college campus. Touring campuses plays a major role in a student’s decision as to what colleges would be right for them. Therefore, not being able to do so adds a bit of uncertainty in the application process. “On the plus side, almost every college has ramped up their online presence,” Ms. Silver said. “Colleges have had to become creative as to how they are getting to see kids and talk to kids. If you can’t come to their campus, how can you know this is a school that is right for you?”

Something else that has changed about the college admissions process due to COVID-19 is the added stresses of extracurricular activities. Some clubs and sports teams are not able to meet due to the pandemic, thereby leaving gaps in many students’ college resumes. “The activities on that list weren’t what I wanted them to be, obviously, but there are still activities on there that I found for myself,” senior Christina Lu said. Since a lot of extracurricular activities have been canceled, many seniors have chosen to explore other types of activities.

One final aspect of the college admissions process that has been altered is the timing of submitting applications. Some colleges have moved their deadlines to early to mid-November, and others have even moved to December. “Just this idea and recognition that kids need more time because COVID has impacted the process.” Ms. Silver said.

Although the process of applying to college has certainly changed due to COVID-19, students and institutions have been able to get creative and find new and effective ways to adapt to the circumstances.