College Admissions Changes During a Global Shift

By IvyWise on Friday, October 16, 2020

Learn What College Admissions Changes to Expect Now and in the Future

The college admissions process has always been multifaceted and complex, but the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have added a new layer of uncertainty. From limited testing options to a lack of campus tours, college applicants are experiencing a new playing field with several noteworthy differences. 

If you’re wondering what changes should be on your radar throughout your college application process, you’re not alone. Keep reading to learn more about the key college admissions changes that are occurring as a result of the ongoing pandemic as well as tips on how to make the most of this experience. 

Storytelling is Key

College admissions officers around the country recognize that this year’s applicant class has faced challenges that are new and unprecedented. For many students, taking the SAT or ACT may not have been feasible, while others experienced cancellations for their summer programs and extracurricular activities. Consequently, admissions officers will review applications within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding that certain information might not be available. 

In the absence of application materials like test scores, students have the opportunity to tell their story and demonstrate their ability to overcome challenges and adapt to change. As Angel B. Perez, head of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, noted in a recent Forbes article, “the thing that’s going to matter most is storytelling.” Students applying to college during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle have the opportunity to answer an optional question on the Common Application, devoted to describing pandemic experiences. Personal statements are another space to tell your story and discuss how you’ve grown and adapted as a result of COVID-19.

Deadlines Get a Rewrite

Many colleges are shifting their admissions policies and protocols in response to the pandemic. Applicants who wish to apply early to demonstrate their interest in their best-fit school should note that some timelines may be modified or updated. For example, Princeton University chose to suspend its Early Action admissions process and instead use Regular Decision as the only application option. Other colleges have recently extended their Early Decision or Early Action deadlines to give students more time to compile their applications. If you’re planning on applying in the early rounds, keep tabs on news and updates from the school you plan to apply to.  

Test-Optional Gains Momentum 

In addition to deadline changes, many colleges are shifting to test-optional admissions policies. This includes all eight Ivy League institutions, as well as other competitive colleges such as Caltech and Stanford University. For many institutions this is a temporary shift, however, there are a number of schools planning to keep the policy permanently. While submitting ACT or SAT scores may not be required for most applicants this year, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t submit test scores that you are proud of. If you’ve had the opportunity to sit for the SAT or ACT and you believe your scores will bolster your academic profile, you shouldn’t hesitate to include them in your application. Check FairTest.org for a comprehensive list of all the colleges that have moved to test-optional admissions for the 2020-2021 cycle.

Acceptance Rates May Change

Last year, six out of the eight Ivy League colleges reported slight upticks in acceptance rates, as many students opted to take a gap year or change their plans in response to the pandemic. There’s a good chance that admissions rates may remain somewhat elevated at some colleges as uncertainties continue. While a smaller pool of applicants may raise your confidence level, it’s important to put the same amount of effort into your applications as you would under any other circumstance. Focus on presenting yourself in the best light possible and submitting transcripts, essays, and additional application components that you are truly proud of. 

While the college admissions process is certainly changing in response to global shifts, there are many components that remain consistent, such as demonstrating your interest and highlighting your passions. If you’re preparing to apply to college and looking for guidance during this unprecedented application cycle, our team of college admissions experts can point you in the right direction.

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