College admissions adapt through a pandemic


Photo courtesy of College Board under Wikimedia Creative Commons.

College Board is the non-profit organization that runs SATs, ACTs, and AP exams.

Applying to college is already very stressful, but now the class of 2021 has another barrier to overcome in the applications process: the coronavirus and the cancellations of standardized tests that have come along with it. Colleges frequently look at a student’s SAT, ACT, or other standardized tests. Colleges also tend to look at a student’s GPA and extracurricular activities. However, due to Covid-19, standardized testing has been affected or even canceled worldwide. So how are colleges responding to all of these unfortunate circumstances?

Juniors were thrown for a loop when the March SAT was first canceled in many places across the world, followed by the College Board’s announcement  that AP exams would now be taken online, threatening the credibility of a passing score. Following these changes, future SATs and ACTs were canceled, leaving colleges with difficult decisions, including choosing between the prestigiousness of their application process and the well-being of students across the nation.  While making applications test-optional seems like a great solution on the surface level, colleges may instead require extra information in place of a test score.

“I think it might be more difficult if students have to submit different, supplementary information like essays from classes,” said junior Gina Perella.

Case Western Reserve University was the first to opt for a test optional policy and dozens quickly followed such as Virginia Tech, Oregon public colleges and universities, the University of California system and even esteemed universities, such as Cornell University, Rice University, and the University of Chicago. 

Some students are nervous about the schools that have not gone test optional yet. Junior Maddie Cortesi said, “My top school…[hasn’t] gone test optional yet, so my window for the fall SAT is much smaller.”

On top of testing changes, some high schools have moved to a pass or fail grading system, further complicating the admissions process. Colleges will no longer be able to use a student’s GPA to analyze one’s academic capabilities. Many colleges have sent correspondence to students explaining that they are aware of this issue. However, colleges claim that they will not hold it against any student for the decisions of their high school. 

To ease the stress of picking a school in the midst of this global pandemic, colleges have been offering online information sessions and tours to help prospective students pick the right university for them since they cannot visit in person for the foreseeable future. Although this is a step in the right direction, an online visit is not a complete fix to the problem.

“The real struggle for students who have not had the opportunity to visit these schools in person is the lack of atmosphere one can only witness when actually being on campus,” said junior AJ Muir. 

While this is definitely a trying time for many, it is important to focus on the positive. “I feel like they’ll look at me as a person instead of an SAT number,” said Cortesi.