Understanding College Admissions in the COVID-19 Era

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The COVID-19 pandemic is leaving high school students and their families with a lot of uncertainty. The overarching question on everyone’s mind right now is: 

What will the recent changes mean for college admissions moving forward? 

In response to these questions, My Pathway to College and local colleague, Dori Middlebrook, hosted a webinar about COVID-19’s impact with four experienced college representatives on May 7th, 2020. We had representatives from Syracuse University, American University, University of Colorado Boulder, and Texas Christian University. Each representative provided insight into how their school is currently planning to handle college admissions for the class of 2021 and offered reassurance that the Spring of 2020 is going to be an unusual period on everyone’s transcript. 

Want to learn more? Watch the webinar, “Understanding College Admissions in the COVID-19 Era,” and reach out to My Pathway to College for customized support in navigating the college admissions process. Please note that the webinar starts at minute six. 

Throughout the webinar, each college admission counselor emphasized that we are all experiencing unprecedented times together. Therefore students’ extracurriculars, GPA, and test scores will be considered with compassion. With that said, students are encouraged to continue producing high-quality work so that their letters of recommendation can attest to their commitment to academics even while distance learning and in a pass/fail environment. Many colleges will be paying more attention to letters of recommendation and application essays, so their engagement in classes matters.

For students who were just catching their stride and committing to activities beyond homework, and feel concerned that their resumés won’t reflect this, consider how you are using this time. Are there ways you can still contribute to your community, explore a passion, or develop a hobby? Perhaps sign up for a Masterclass. Maybe take a course through Coursera, where students can find online courses in every subject from leading universities around the world. Or, further, explore areas of academic interest by enrolling in a summer school course at a local community college or pre-college program. 

Remember that a student’s grades are considered in the context of other students at their high school. Therefore, they are not at a disadvantage if their high school elected to go pass/fail, and another high school did not. 

Each university is adjusting its application criteria differently. It will be important for students to consider how the schools on their college list are handling the changing landscape of college admissions. What are colleges choosing to focus on and to require as part of their application? Do these choices reflect a student’s strengths and the indicators they believe will best determine their success in college? Lauri Callaway (CU Boulder) stated that some of these decisions might impact where students ultimately decide to apply. 

One unexpected positive to come out of the pandemic is that many colleges have acted quickly to provide a plethora of virtual resources for interested students. Since campus visits are no longer an option, check out college admissions sites for live information sessions with students, academic departments, and admissions representatives, as well as virtual tours.

These are challenging times, and our team has been incredibly impressed with our students’ adaptability and the holistic approach that colleges are taking. As the admissions process continues to evolve, we look forward to keeping you informed to help students navigate their path to college.