Coronavirus and College Admissions: Changes You Need to Know

Padya Paramita

Coronavirus and College Admissions: Changes You Need to Know

As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to impact everyday lives, high school operations and the college admissions landscape have also begun to shift accordingly. It’s easy to lose track of every development with the transition to online classes, new SAT dates, and incoming announcements from various colleges. Understandably, as a prospective applicant, you may have a lot of questions regarding the changes that come with the Coronavirus and college admissions.

The College Board has had to take action with SAT and AP test administration while different colleges have introduced various policies to make sure students are evaluated with the COVID-19 crisis in mind. To guide you through everything going on regarding the Coronavirus and college admissions, we’ve gone over new plans for the SAT, ACT, AP, and IB exams, discussed how the actual application process will be impacted, and finally, provided updates on how specific schools have reacted to the situation. We will continue to update this blog with the most up-to-date admissions announcements.

Changes in SAT & ACT Administrations

Most people looking into the Coronavirus and college admissions changes have heard about standardized testing modifications. Below we have included those updates:

  • SAT Cancellations: The College Board has canceled the administration of the March and May SAT exams, with all students refunded. The organization has just announced the cancelation of the June 6, 2020 SAT. The team has announced that it will add an August date to make up for the lost sessions. The board is also exploring options for an online SAT that students can take at home.
  • ACT Rescheduling: Meanwhile the ACT has rescheduled its April 4 test date to June 13 across the country in response to the Coronavirus. Registered students will receive an email with instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future ACT test date of their choice.  

Updates in Testing Policies at Different Colleges

Colleges are well aware of these changes in testing availability and have started to change their requirements accordingly. Below are testing policy modifications that have been announced by specific schools: 

  • Boston University: Boston University has recently decided to make SAT and ACT scores optional for students applying this upcoming fall due to the disruptions in test sessions.
  • Case Western University: Case Western University in Ohio has announced that SAT and ACT scores are optional for students applying this fall.
  • Tufts University: Tufts University has decided to become test optional for the next three years. 
  • The University of North Carolina: The UNC system has announced that the schools can admit students on the basis of GPA alone, but students must still submit a standardized test score with an application unless they qualify for an exemption. The schools have changed their minimum requirements for application to  a 2.5 weighted high school GPA, a combined SAT score of 1010 or an ACT of 19.

You can find the full list of colleges that have gone test optional here. You may submit your standardized test results at these schools if you believe that they will benefit your application. If your performance doesn’t turn out to be as great as you hoped — especially due to all the disruption— don’t send your results. 

If you were planning to take either the SAT or ACT this spring, don’t forget to keep up your preparation for when you finally get to sit for it. To make sure you don’t forget the techniques you have learned, continue taking practice tests and utilize resources such as Khan Academy videos to ace the exam when the time comes.

Impact of the Coronavirus on End of Year Exams

The ban on public gatherings and implementation of social distancing has impacted end of year exams as well. Regardless of whether you were registered for AP or IB exams, there are new protocols that you must carefully pay attention to in light of recent changes. 

  • AP Tests: The College Board has announced the development of a secure, 45-minute online free-response exam for each AP course. These tests can be taken on any device. You’ll also have the option to write your responses by hand and submit a photo. We will update this blog with specific timelines for taking the exam once the information becomes available.
  • IB Exams: On the other hand, if you’re registered for the IB exams, your senior year is going to turn out differently than you had originally planned. The International Baccalaureate program has announced that all IB exams, originally scheduled for April and May, will no longer be held this year. Depending on your academic standing and submission of all internal assignments, you will receive the diploma upon completion of all your coursework. 

Changes in Summer Programs

Due to the social distancing protocols and inability for people to fly to different locations, various summer programs have also started implementing changes.

  • Stanford Summer Humanities Institute: Stanford has recently announced that this prestigious summer program will be conducted online in 2020. The experience will still feature courses taught by Stanford humanities professors.
  • Columbia Summer ImmersionColumbia University has informed students that the Summer Immersion program is moving online this year.

Impact of the Coronavirus on Fall School Closures

Colleges have been debating whether or not they should host in-person classes during the fall semester. Schools that have begun making announcements are outlined below. We will add to this list as more updates are posted.

  • California State University: Cal State has announced that the majority of fall classes will be conducted online for the safety of students and staff.

How the Overall College Admissions Landscape Will Be Impacted

You might be wondering about how the different policies implemented by high schools and testing boards will impact the way admissions offices operate. The Coronavirus will not likely alter the ways in which college applications are actually processed by admissions officers during the early or regular rounds. Since candidates submit all parts of their profile through digital portals such as the Common App and Coalition App, the entire system is already built to run online.

If the pandemic is still heavily prevalent when the time comes for submission, universities will move operations online. College fairs and information sessions will be made digital. As for the actual deliberation process about who is admitted, admissions officers can hold committee meetings to discuss top candidates over video conferencing apps such as Zoom. 

Schools are aware that this pandemic is a global issue and will read applications according to students’ contexts. Admissions officers will consider additional information sections in the Common App, stay up to date on the latest policy changes and of course, they will go into the coming application cycle with this context in mind. Colleges had previously extended deadlines for students affected by the LA fires. The current situation affects everyone, and universities will understand and accommodate. 

Erin Gu, Chief Education Officer of InGenius Prep, gives her thoughts on the changing college admissions landscape here:

Deposit Deadline Changes

Although most of the process will remain the same, timelines may continue to change when it comes to the Coronavirus and college admissions. Universities have already started to adjust deadlines and events accordingly. Admitted student days for campus visits have now been moved online. Because of all the changes, many schools, including Williams College, Macalester College, and Connecticut College have postponed their enrollment deposit due date from May 1 to June 1. More universities are expected to do the same. You can find the full list — updated regularly — here.

Changes to the Common Application

Due to the vast impact of COVID-19, the Common App has added a question to provide students with a space in the 2020-21 application to elaborate if they have been affected drastically by the pandemic. The prompt reads:

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces. 

  • Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N
  • Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.

The word limit for this prompt is 250 words. Your answer can cover both academic and personal reasons.

Updates in Policies for Different Colleges

As the situation develops, many universities have provided information to alleviate college applicants’ stress regarding the admissions process at this time. The latest announcements are included below:

  • Yale University: Yale has affirmed prospective applicants that the school views applications holistically and will evaluate profiles with the Coronavirus crisis in mind.
  • The University of California System: The University of California system has announced that high school classes transitioning to online courses will not negatively impact student applications.
  • The University of Chicago: UChicago recently released a statement saying that the school will adjust the way applications are read in light of the pandemic. The college has further clarified that it will keep students’ contexts in mind — including school closures, changes in test dates, and inability to visit campus. Although UChicago isn’t among the list of colleges that track demonstrated interest, it will still arrange for virtual information sessions so that prospective candidates can learn more about the UChicago experience and ask any questions that they have.  

As colleges are unable to host admitted student days or provide other opportunities for applicants to visit, they have been obliged to turn towards alternative ways to manage yield rates. 

  • Bucknell University: For example, Bucknell University has stated that it will be increasing the number of students receiving acceptance letters in hopes of maintaining a high yield. Other colleges are expected to follow, although top tier universities such as the Ivy League Schools, Stanford, and MIT are unlikely to adopt this method. 

Protocols for International Students

Meanwhile, universities have also begun anticipating travel difficulties for international students in the fall. 

  • Ohio Wesleyan University: Ohio Wesleyan University has declared that the school is committed to arrange online classes for international students in case visas fall through.
  • Purdue University: Purdue University has introduced an alternate timeline for students with special circumstances. The school emailed international students studying in the US informing them of the possibility to start college during the Summer 2020 semester, as it might be difficult for them to travel outside the country and return in the fall. 

We will continue updating this page with information on specific schools as they keep coming through.

There’s obviously a lot to keep track of in regard to the Coronavirus and college admissions scene. Once you’ve made sure that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy, look through the websites of different colleges and testing organizations to take note of how the various changes impact your profile. As this is a situation affecting everyone around the world, know that schools are aware of the difficulties and will keep implementing new policies as the pandemic continues. 

Hear Susan Shifflett, a Former Assistant Director of Admissions from Yale University, discuss Coronavirus and college admissions in this webinar:

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