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The COVID-19 Impact on Admissions: Finding the Silver Lining

The COVID-19 pandemic is raising major questions and concerns across all areas of our lives. The impact of the crisis on higher education and college admissions is incredible. Current college students, high school seniors, and parents are all wondering the same thing; what will school look like in the fall, and how has all of this changed the college admissions process?

As every high school student knows, standardized testing is one of the main components in the process of applying to college. But what is the protocol for testing during a global pandemic? It’s impossible to even attend small classes, much less gather hundreds of students in one room to take an exam. State-issued tests, as well as the ACT and College Board exams, have been canceled across the country. Many schools across the country have unveiled new test-optional policies for the class of 2021. You can see an updated list on

Students should also contact their prospective schools to understand specific policies on evaluating GPA if the semester’s classes were pass/fail. Some schools will simply look at the GPA the student had before the lockdown. Others might accept that students passed their courses. Your letters of recommendation, especially from your school guidance counselor, will become increasingly important to explain any COVID-related glitches in your transcript.

Some students may not wish to attend college in the fall regardless of the status of the pandemic. With millions of people now unemployed and the world more uneasy than ever, many students are opting to take a gap year instead of bombarding themselves with the stresses of college on top of everything else. According to The Wall Street Journal, there’s been a 60% increase in searches for the term “gap year” on Google since the onset of the pandemic. Many students simply don’t want to attend college in an uncertain time when the college experience most likely won’t look normal. Will this change the landscape for the class of 2021?

While the COVID pandemic has caused major crises within the realm of college admissions, there are a few upsides. For one thing, since so many students are choosing to take a gap year or to defer, seniors may now have an opportunity to gain admission to universities where they were previously denied or waitlisted. Will a school revisit your application? Go ahead and ask! On an updated list in early May, over 800 schools in the United States still had space available in their incoming class! Additionally, students who struggle with standardized testing are in luck with the implementation of new test-optional policies. Of course, GPA will now carry more weight, but the absence of standardized testing means a major decrease in the normal stresses of applying to college. Without the SAT and ACT, students should focus on standing out through essays and extracurriculars.

The COVID pandemic is certainly a trying and difficult tine, but it doesn’t mean students should give up their college dreams and goals. We may not know what the Fall 2020, or even the Fall 2021, semesters will look like, but we do know that universities across the country are working on implementing systems that will allow students to receive quality educations and unforgettable college experiences. As Brennan Barnard recently said in Forbes, college admission leaders “are living, breathing people who understand what students are experiencing. They are in this work because they want to admit students and create opportunities.”

We are all in this together!

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