How Has Covid Changed College Admissions?

It goes without saying that the COVID pandemic has changed all facets of society and education in particular. Colleges had to rapidly change their approach to admissions for the 2020 school year and moving into the 2021 school year.

Because of these changes, many colleges have seen an increase in applications. This increase was most evidently with racial and ethnic groups that are traditionally underrepresented on college campuses.

This increase in applications can be largely attributed to the changes that have been implemented to the admissions process. Not every school has made the same changes but for most colleges they have had to some extent adjust their admissions process.

Some of these changes include…

Test Optional Applications

This means exactly what it sounds like, students can send in applications and opt out of submitting test scores. For many years, SAT or ACT scores have been a huge factor and consideration for schools during the application process. However, during the COVID pandemic, many testing centers have been temporarily closed and not offering any testing options. Because students could not take tests like the SAT or ACT, they do not have these scores to include in their applications.

There have been several colleges that had been considering moving away from using standardized test scores as a significant aspect of an application. The pandemic provided a trial run of sorts for this move. It may be likely that some schools will keep this change.

Cut Application Fees

Business closings and shorter hours due to the pandemic have taken an economic toll on many. Some colleges have cut application fees or waived them all together in order to make it easier for students who wish to apply to college. Depending on how many colleges a student applies to, these fees can add up. This in the past has been a potential deterrent for some applicants, but not this year.

Extending Deadlines

During this uncertain time and due to a potentially hard year, many colleges are extending application deadlines. The hope is to allow applicants more time to consider their academic futures and what they desire. Some scholarships have also extended their deadline dates for similar reasons. During a school year that has caused a lot of anxiety and overwhelm, this extension will potentially take some of this stress off od students.

Applications with Missing Information

Since some schools went to pass/fail grades or closed all together, there are many students who are missing information that would traditionally be on a college application. Some colleges are accepting applications missing a semester or two of grades. They may also be considering applications without extracurricular activities. Many athletics, music programs, theater groups, and volunteer programs have closed or limited the number of events they have had. This has made it difficult for many students to participate.

Because of this, there is more emphasis on applicant’s essays and even their interviews. Colleges have also then had to look at student trends. This means admissions offices have had to look back at trends in student grades and extracurricular activities. By doing this colleges can get an overall picture of a students performance even if this information isn’t just from the previous school year. So, students who may have struggled through the pandemic and virtual learning can benefit from this change if they have traditionally been an exceptional student.

Use of Apps

Some schools have transitioned to the use of apps to receive short answer questions or to conduct interviews. Since there has been a need to cut down on in person interactions, apps have been developed and are in use to allow for this distancing. Some of the short answer apps work by flashing a question for students to respond to in a designated time. The app records the applicant’s response and allows college admission offices to review these responses. Much like an interview, this allows colleges to see students answering these questions on the fly without any preparation.

Increase in Applicants

Due to all of these changes, colleges have seen an increase in the number of applicants. According to Bluesky Online, colleges have seen a 2% increase in the number of applicants than in previous years. There has also been an increase in the number of minority applicants. However, just because there has been an increase in the number of college applicants, there has not necessarily been an increase in the number of students admitted. This has especially been the case with ivy league colleges like Harvard and Yale. Despite this, more students have had the opportunity to even apply and be considered to be admitted to college.

Other College Considerations

Many colleges have also been moving to a character model. This means that colleges are beginning to look more at the character of their applicants and not just their academics. This would be most beneficial to those students who may have the drive and motivation to be successful in college even if that has not translated to their grades in high school. Once again, this can be best seen and analyzed by colleges through applicant’s essays and/or interviews.

Colleges are also having to take a deeper look at their applicants.  This year, colleges have to take into consideration each applicant’s unique situation depending on the high school that they are coming from. Because admissions offices cannot just rely on grades and test scores, those making admission decisions have to look at the whole student.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to apply to college for this coming 2021 school year, make sure to look for any of these changes to the application process. Each college may be different and have differing requirements compared to previous years. Make sure that you look into each school you choose to apply to.

So while some of these changes to college admissions have happened out of necessity, many of these may stick around. This can potentially be the beginning of a change in the type of student that colleges are seeking out and accepting.



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