College Admissions Not Immune to Pandemic, Students Must Adapt To A New College Process

Steve Zhina, Staff Writer

College applications have been at the forefront of students’ minds for months, as the application process itself has been called into question amidst concerns over standardized testing, college tours, etc. Education has become closely intertwined with the COVID-19 pandemic, and seniors applying to college have been forced to adapt to a new college process . 

Applying to college has always been stressful, but this year brings an extra array of challenges. However, some students have felt that this new process has had a positive impact, as standard markers of success such as the SAT no longer carry as much merit. Colleges and universities, including some of the country’s highest organizations, have begun to modify their state-administered testing strategies,in  an effort to adapt to the pandemic. Schools including Bowdoin College, George Washington University, and the University of Chicago, have all made the submission of standardized testing scores an optional section of their application. 

 Many colleges and universities have not only made SAT/ACT score submissions optional, but also allowed students to submit pass/fail grades for courses they completed after schools shut down in early March. Admissions officers will also have to assess applications that are missing at least a semester of extracurricular activities: sports, band, theater, volunteering, and anything else that helps distinguish applicants from one another. This has caused student anxiety levels to skyrocket, as extracurriculars are a valuable way of expressing your individuality outside of the classroom. 

In response to all of these changes, The Common Application, often referred to as The Common App., added a new, optional 250-word essay section that will allow students to address their atypical high school experience. This new essay prompt asks students to respond to the following statement: “Community disruptions like COVID-19 and natural disasters can have profound and lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts.” This addition to the The Common App., which is used by so many schools in the United States, proves that universities are concerned about the health, well-being, family circumstances, education plans, and access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces in addition to their applicants’ grades. 

For many high school students, the pandemic will have a lasting impact on their education and daily lives. The economic disparities in American society have been on full display during this pandemic, as a large percentage of families that have been impacted by COVID-19 are no longer able to send their children to college. In response to this, several universities have begun providing financial aid to those who were forced into poor economic standing by the pandemic. Other students, however, have had the opposite experience. Students with more resources have had the opportunity to display their interests and talents by taking on new projects and gaining new perspectives that will impact their future. As such, many students with more resources have taken the time throughout this awkward 6-month period to improve themselves and learn more. Technology has played an important role in students being able to achieve this. Many colleges, universities, and organizations have provided students and their families with webinars about the new process, but only those with time and access are able to attend and benefit from such webinars.

This situation has been tumultuous for us all, but it has helped us grow as people and it has made us stronger. During this time of unprecedented change, we must be tenacious, patient, and optimistic, as we adapt to the changes made in the college admissions process.


Disclaimer: This article pulled on coverage from The Harvard Gazette, NPR, Forbes Magazine, and Teen Vogue.