With a global pandemic on our hands causing drastic changes in school districts, college admissions, and learning methods, staying informed is more necessary than ever. Many students’ 2019-2020 school year and 2020 summer plans have been halted by the shelter in place order caused by COVID-19. Schools from kindergarten to high schools have switched to online remote learning, grading scales have been altered, and summer plans have been affected. Many students were not able to take the standardized tests that they signed up for. All of these issues have changed college admissions drastically, and this article will cover the most important changes made so far this year.

Standardized testing is a big part of a student’s college application, as before this year, most colleges in the nation required some form of test, whether it be the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject

Test, etc. However, spring admissions for both the SAT and ACT were canceled, leaving tens of thousands of students waiting for a summer or fall test date to take their exam. Students whose tests were canceled are given priority registration for fall tests, but there are still thousands who were planning to sign up for the tests later in the year. With limited seats available, students are facing the stress of getting a spot on top of the stress of taking the exam. 

In response, many colleges have gone “test optional”. The UC schools have created a plan to “phase out” the SAT and ACT and are talking about eventually replacing them with their own standardized test. Read this article to learn more about UC’s response to standardized testing changes. In addition, the top 20 schools have also altered their testing requirements. A comprehensive review of all the changes made can be found under the weekly headlines. Test optional means that students may, but are not required to, submit their standardized testing score.

Although many colleges have gone test optional for at least the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, there are still students who would like to take the ACT, SAT, or other standardized tests. Both the college board and ACT are currently planning to create more fall testing opportunities to accommodate all the students who still want to take the exams.

While many colleges and universities have gone test optional, it is important to make a distinction between “test optional” and “test blind”. Both mean that test scores are not required. However, for test optional schools, students who submit their test scores will be able to boost their application, while students who don’t will not be penalized in any way. Because of this, many students are still planning to take the tests. Test blind means that the college will not look at the standardized testing score even if one is submitted. Click this link to learn more about the differences between these terms.

The ACT, inc and College Board are still discussing their plans for the summer and fall. Make sure to read the weekly education updates on this website to stay informed when decisions are made.

Another essential part of the college application process is the essay. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students across the world, admissions officers are mostly against students writing solely about the coronavirus in their normal college essays, which is why the common application added a new, optional essay prompt. Under this prompt, students can explain their situation during the school dismissal period and what they did with their time:

 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? (250 words)

The new topic encourages students to write about different experiences that make them stand out for the other prompts.

For athletes looking to get recruited to play in college, the coronavirus has created a big problem. Their season, camps, tournaments, and other athletic events around the nation have been shut down as a result of shelter in place, limiting their chances of getting scouted by college coaches. College coaches have not stopped reaching out to coaches and athletes, however, and they do this through email, phone call, text, etc. Read this New York Times article to learn more. You can also visit this link to see how you can manage your recruiting process during this time.

For the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year, most schools for all ages have switched to remote online learning. While the switch was necessary to make sure everyone was safe and to flatten the curve for cases of coronavirus, online school has had a large impact on a lot of students. Online school also makes it very difficult for international students to engage with their class, as they live in varying time zones and may not be able to participate in real time.

As a result, there is projected to be less international students in the upcoming classes, which would mean a less diverse student population

Learning through video calls makes it harder to stay motivated, retain information, and learn for many students. In addition, students are missing out on the hands-on aspect of many classes, such as labs in science classes. Because of the uncertainty for the future, some schools and colleges alike are planning to continue remote learning in the fall. 

For rising seniors applying during the 2020-2021 school year, there have been some changes to the application pool. Since international students are less likely to apply there may be less competition in that regard. However, there are students from the class of 2020 who are taking a gap year, potentially increasing the number of applicants. 

Many private colleges have faced a larger summer melt than they usually do. Summer melt is where students who have accepted offers of admission already say that they will go elsewhere. In previous years this mostly happened among low-income students as a result of insufficient financial aid, missing deadlines, or lacking support from family/friends to attend college. This year it is because of the uncertainty in the future – school in the fall may be moved online if campuses are closed, people are increasingly wanting to stay closer to home. Also, the lack of spring campus tours has contributed to a higher summer melt. It has been projected that many private colleges will be down almost 20% compared to their expected enrollment number.

To compensate for a larger summer melt, colleges have made more effort to reach out to their accepted students, with summer programs, texting, remote peer counseling on financial aid and planning, and online campus tours. To take an online tour, visit the website of the college, and simply search for “virtual tour”. Students can also find the email of admissions officers and people who attend the college with questions they may have.

Clearly, there has been a lot of change so far this year. Although this time may be overwhelming and confusing, the weekly articles on this page can help people stay informed about the decisions schools make.