College Information During COVID–19
Updated: Jan 7
As the calendar moves forward and various regions emerge from the unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown, many students and parents still have lingering questions about how various elements of college applications will be reviewed for high school seniors who will be applying during the 2020-2021 college admissions cycle.
Overall, it is important to keep in mind that the majority of US colleges and universities have long practiced a holistic review process.
Holistic review enables admissions officers to review all elements of an application in context and permits flexibility in decisions.
The holistic review ethos will remain unchanged and, due to the flexibility it permits, holistic review lends itself particularly well to a situation like COVID–19.
Below are some Questions & Answers regarding college admissions & COVID-19:
Q: I've seen lots of announcements that colleges are going test-optional due to COVID-19, do I still need to take the ACTs/SATs?
A: First things first, the information regarding testing for both the ACT and SAT has changed frequently and will likely continue to do so.
Therefore, it is important to check for testing date changes directly with the testing agency as this information can quickly become outdated.
Read more about test optional during Covid-19
If you plan to apply to a selective or highly selective school, and you do not have extenuating circumstances, the answer is a resounding YES.
You will note that while several highly selective schools have removed the requirement of submission of the ACT or the SAT I requirement, scores still be reviewed (in the majority of cases) for students who submit scores.
While the University of California system has removed the requirement altogether and many schools have removed the requirement, these decisions were made primarily to not further disadvantage students who may not have internet access at home, or who may need to help out with family obligations during this time.
This is a great move by admissions offices as it extends leniency to students in a variety of circumstances during unprecedented times.
If you have the ability to, you should definitely plan on seriously preparing for both the ACT or SATs and the SAT IIs if you are applying to highly selective schools.
Q: How will colleges review applications given the suspension of standard schooling and extracurriculars during the COVID-19 quarantine?
Great question! While this specific circumstance is unprecedented, colleges have long reviewed students in the context of the overall applicant pool (who have all been similarly affected by the quarantine) and also, in the context of their individual situations.
Colleges will ask, “Besides remote learning, what did this applicant, do during the quarantine?”
Below are two examples of fictional students:
Student A: Sam is a 4.0 student who has a combined 33 ACT (1460 SAT). Prior to the quarantine, Sam was an active member of Model UN and volunteered at her local foodbank. As soon as the quarantine started, Sam began meeting with her MUN friends via Skype, and together they devised a plan for interviewing next year’s MUN leadership team remotely. She also reached out to her contact at the foodbank with a specific idea for how she could help. Understandably, her foodbank connection didn’t get back to her, so she waited for 2 weeks and tried again. After her second attempt, Sam began managing the foodbank’s Instagram page from her bedroom, promoting the good work they were doing and starting a fundraiser on IG that ultimately raised $4,000. She also took advantage of the many free resources online for SAT prep, and after several weeks, began consistently scoring in the mid-1500s on practice tests. Sam is now planning a larger in-person fundraiser for the foodbank when possible and plans to take the SATs again.
Student B: Taylor is also a 4.0 student (at a different high school) who also has a combined 33 ACT (1440 SAT). Like Sam, prior to the shutdown he was actively involved in Model UN and volunteered at his local food bank. As soon as the quarantine started, he met with his advisor and asked about MUN elections for the fall. Overwhelmed with the switch to online schooling, the advisor told him they would have to wait until the fall. Taylor took no further action. Like Sam, Taylor also reached out to his contact at the foodbank and didn’t hear back. Unlike Sam, he never contacted them again thinking they were too busy and didn’t care about his help. Taylor read that some colleges were not requiring the ACTs or SATs so he decided his ACT of 33 was strong enough. Taylor did a great job with his online schooling. He also caught up on Netflix while away from school. He has great recommendations if you need a show to watch.
Here above you see two very similar students in nearly identical situations during the quarantine.
They both did well by making initial attempts to engage beyond school as remote – learning began. It’s probably not a surprise for you to hear that admissions officers will be more likely to admit Sam in this situation.
Sam used the time productively in quarantine and is therefore a much stronger applicant. Taylor stalled. Even during difficult circumstances, admissions officers are looking for Sams.
Admissions officers will look for students who persevered creatively and used what was available to them to create opportunities to help both themselves and their community.
Admissions officers will also be looking for leadership (as Sam exhibited with model UN) in contrast to Taylor, who just asked his advisor what to do.
Q: How does COVID-19 impact our services?
A: As former admissions officers, our college admissions consultants are ready to help you make the most of this most unusual time.
We are experts in working with students remotely and are able to brainstorm with you and provide encouragement and advice on the next steps needed.
With our support, you will continue to create unique and positive opportunities that build your profile for the college admissions process.
As testing dates evolve and circumstances change, our consultants can quickly provide individual recommendations on testing requirements and testing priorities for students
Learn why Bentham Admissions provide the one-on-one support you need through your admission process.