COVID-19 Impact on College Applications

Over the last several years, many private and public universities around the United States have become test-optional or waived the requirement entirely. With the challenge facing high school students from the coronavirus pandemic, especially those in the class of 2021, more colleges and universities have decided to forgo the requirement, some for just one year, others for up to three years, and others permanently.

Some went further than that, with leaders of the University of California system voting to phase out the SAT and ACT as an admissions requirement over the next four years. The test will be optional through 2024 when the system’s ten schools could develop its own admissions test.

Several Ivy League colleges and universities are also waiving the exams, as well as SAT subject tests. So far, Dartmouth College, Yale, and Brown University still require them, as do Stanford and highly selective colleges on the West Coast. But many of the schools that compete with those big names are moving ahead to make the tests optional.

In short, to find out what each college is asking for 2020-2021 applications, you should research the requirements on their website.

In standard application years, most colleges rely on holistic review, with GPA, test scores, and academic rigor making up the student’s application. When the headline (basic requirements listed above) meets or exceeds the school’s benchmarks, a member of the application team is more inclined to dive deeper into the student’s application and consider extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, AP/IB scores, and other traditional “boxes to check.”

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged the headline of the traditional application. GPAs are not going to be simple to calculate as some high schools use a pass/fail grading system to reflect compromised education and evaluation standards for remote learning.

What is a college application reader going to focus on this year? What can you do to help your application stand out?

Participation in internships or programs that reveal a candidate’s passion or expertise in a field, commitment to a community, and leadership experience, is what readers are looking for in an application. How you do that during the pandemic is the question you need to answer. You must come up with creative alternatives to the traditional summer internship, mentorship, or summer educational program. How you express your passion or expertise in your application will determine how successful you are with your college applications.

If you have any questions about selecting a college, or the admissions process, feel free to contact me through my website at or call me at 760.877.7200. I would love to answer your questions

Andrea K. Frimmer, M. Ed.
Prep 4 College Now, Inc.

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