Coronavirus Cancellations: Admissions Testing and College Updates

Friday, December 11, 2020

Memorial Church and Harvard Yard on campus of Harvard University at sunset. Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, MA.The Latest on How Colleges and Universities in the US are Responding to COVID-19

The response to concerns over the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has deeply affected college bound high school students with school closures and the cancelling of large gatherings, including campus visits and admissions tests.

Here’s the latest on what’s happening with admissions testing and campus events.

Fall 2021 Semester

As admissions decisions loom, many colleges are starting to outline their plans for fall 2021. Many colleges have already stated that they plan to be mostly, if not fully, back to “normal” operations for the fall, giving hope to students who have spent the past year with virtual or hybrid learning.

Spring 2021 Semester

Colleges are now looking toward the spring, and with a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon and a better idea of how to handle the virus within the student body, some are looking to expand the number of students on campus. Harvard University announced that it plans to invite more students to live on campus this spring, while classes continue to be virtual. While a welcome plan for students looking to get back to campus, it’s also a way for colleges to manage some of the financial losses tied to the pandemic. With more students on campus they’ll have more funds from housing and dining fees.

Schools are also canceling spring breaks in order to limit travel that could contribute to an increase in cases. Instead, some will have “wellness days” spread throughout the semester where classes are canceled in order to give students and faculty much-needed breaks.

Colleges Make Plans for the Holidays

Colleges grappled with how to handle the Thanksgiving season, where many students end up traveling home before coming back to campus to wrap up the semester. While some schools planned to continue to offer in-person instruction and encourage students not to travel for Thanksgiving, others advised students to go home for Thanksgiving and stay home – finishing out the semester online.

For example, the University of Michigan canceled housing contracts so students living on campus cannot return after the holidays and instead finish out the term virtually. As COVID-19 cases spike, expect to see more universities take similar precautions and pivot back to fully virtual models.

Colleges Going Test-Optional

With testing cancellations and no clear information yet on if there will be additional dates, over 60% of colleges have gone test-optional for the class of 2021. Here’s the full list of colleges going test-optional for the 2020-21 college admissions cycle.

University Event Cancellations

In response to coronavirus concerns, many colleges and universities across the US have announced cancellations or modifications to regular admissions events, most notably going virtual for campus tours and information sessions. Each school is taking its own approach to this situation, so it’s important to check with each school on your college list to learn their policy regarding college visits, tours, information sessions, and other prospective student programming.

Counselors have been putting together resources to help students visit their top-choice schools virtually. Here’s a list of schools that offer virtual tours and where to find them.

NACAC also has a great resource for information on school closures, deadlines, and more affected by COVID-19.

SAT/ACT Cancellations

After examination cancellations in the beginning of 2020, both the SAT and ACT have moved forward with in-person exam administrations since this summer, however, many testing centers ended up closing for exam day, leaving many students without the opportunity to test.

For the Oct. SAT, the College Board announced that “as of Oct. 27, some 96,000 students of the 312,000 who had registered to take the SAT this Saturday, would be unable to test. Thirty percent of the testing sites are closed.” As COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country, we expect more test centers to cancel SAT/ACT examinations this winter.

Graduate Admissions Exams Updates

GRE: Students registered for the GRE will be able to take the exam at home.Taking the GRE General Test at home is available from March 23 (13:00 UTC) in selected countries where students can take the test at home beginning Friday, March 27.” The test will be identical to the regular in-person examination and will be monitored online by a proctor.

TOEFL: Students can also now take the TOEFL at home.

LSAT: All March LSAT registrations will be automatically registered for the April 25 exam in the community where they were originally scheduled to take the exam. If that location is unavailable, they will be automatically registered for the June test in their locations. They are also waiving late change fees for April registrants. While no final decisions have been made they are exploring the option of possibly offering the exam online at home.

MCAT: March 27 and April 4 MCAT exams have been canceled. Students registered for exams that were canceled will receive a full refund and can re-register for a future date. Right now there is no plan to add additional testing dates but they are monitoring the situation closely.

GMAT: Testing has been suspended in many locations worldwide. For more information visit the GMAC site here.

This is a very fluid time so expect changes to happen rapidly and frequently. At IvyWise we work with families to help them best navigate the college admissions process, including any unexpected challenges like canceled campus visits and testing. If you need help making decisions on your testing schedule or college list because of cancellations, our team is here to help. Contact us today for information.


Here’s a timeline of previous updates and developments: 

September 14: Many colleges are planning to continue their fall model into the spring semester, either staying completely online or having a hybrid model of in-person and virtual learning. For some this includes eliminating school breaks that send students away from campus, like spring break.

September 8: A number of colleges are already sending students home amid COVID-19 outbreaks on campus.

September 1: A California judge has ordered the University of California system to discontinue the use of SAT and ACT scores in the college admissions process this fall, citing that disruptions caused by COVID-19 are making it impossible for disables students to test. This will make the UC system effectively “test-blind” for the fall.

August 26: The ACT announced that it has canceled all international exam administrations for December 2020 and February 2021 test dates. This is a huge blow to international students who are already faced with limited testing availability.

August 20: Only 54% of testing centers will be open for the August 29 SAT, with many reducing their capacity to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Here’s where to see if your test center has been closed.

August 17: The NCAA has waved the SAT/ACT testing requirement for incoming Division I and II athletes who plan to enroll full time in the 2021-21 academic year and play a sport.

After just two weeks on campus, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is moving to fully virtual instruction after an outbreak of COVID-19 among students.

More than 60% of four-year colleges and universities in the US are test optional for the 2020-21 admissions cycle.

August 7: More than 400 colleges and universities have signed on to NACAC’s state affirming that their test-optional policies are truly test optional and applicants will not be penalized for not submitting SAT/ACT scores with their applications.

August 3: The College Board has announced the makeup dates for those who were unable to complete their AP exams this spring. Students will be able to make up their AP exams August 24-31.

The ACT is reopening registration for fall exam dates today.

July 30: MyACT will reopen for 2020-2021 registration Monday, August 3 at 10 a.m. CT. Seniors impacted by summer testing cancellations will receive communication this week about an accelerated registration process.

This week the percentage of colleges planning for an in-person fall semester dropped to below 50%. The Chronicle of Higher Education has since launched a new tool for parents and students to see college reopening plans for the fall.

According to a recent survey, 2/3 of rising seniors have yet to take the SAT and 3/4 have yet to take the ACT.

Colleges across the US are already seeing outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus.

July 24: ICE has confirmed that new international students cannot take online-only course loads in the US.

A number of colleges and universities that are discounting tuition for students taking online classes for the 2020-21 school year.

July 23: Some colleges, like Harvard and USC, are advising incoming freshmen, international students to stay in their home country for the upcoming school year.

July 21: The ACT has issued a statement about unexpectedly closed testing centers for the July 18 examination.

More colleges that planned to hold in-person classes this fall have reversed their decisions in light of rising COVID-19 cases in certain areas of the US.

July 20: Many students who expected to take the ACT at some of the few open test centers the weekend were shocked to learn when they arrived for the exam that it had been canceled.

July 16: A least three colleges are now backtracking on their plans to have in-person instruction this fall because of surges in COVID-19 cases.

Many colleges are creating student conduct contracts and/or adjusting student code of ethics policies to ensure that students adhere to social distancing and recommended safety protocols in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campuses this fall.

Stanford’s School of Medicine will not require 2020-21 applicants to submit an MCAT score as part of their application due to testing disruptions caused by COVID-19.

A new pool has found that 76% of students plan to return to their college campuses this fall if given the option.

Delaying college by a year can cost students about $90k in earnings over their lifetime.

July 14: DHS and ICE will rescind the previously announced policy barring international students from staying in the US if they were talking online-only courses this academic year.

July 8: Harvard and MIT have filed a lawsuit over the new immigration policy that won’t allow international students to stay in the US if their courses are entirely online this fall.

The Ivy League announced all fall sports are suspended for this year.

Stanford will be cutting 11 varsity sports after the 2020-21 season.

July 7: Brown University will operate on a three-term academic year for 2020-21, with each class on campus for two of the three terms. Currently, first-year students are slated to be on campus for the Spring and Summer terms – meaning they will start the school year with remote instructions.

Princeton University announced students will be on campus for one semester this year – freshmen and juniors in the fall and sophomores and seniors in the spring – with most instruction remaining online for both remote and on-campus students. Tuition will be discounted 10% for all students.

July 6: Harvard University announced today that it will allow incoming freshmen on campus this fall, and all instruction will be virtual for all students, both on and off campus.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released new rules about how international students on visas can study in the US this fall. The new guidance stipulates that:

  • If a college is fully virtual, international students who are currently overseas WILL NOT be allowed to enter the country. They can take a full courseload online from their home country. For international students who are currently in the US, they will have to leave the country or transfer to another college or university with face-to-face instruction.
  • If a college is hybrid (online and in-person), international students must be on-campus at their university to take a full courseload. They cannot take all classes online from abroad – they will need to be on campus.

July 2: Undergraduate classes at the University of Southern California will be held online this fall, with students encouraged to live close to campus or at home.

July 1: More colleges are starting to reveal their plans for reopening this fall. Yale University plans to bring students back to campus with enhanced safety protocols. Dartmouth College has also announced it plans to have students on campus, with half of the student body on campus at a time and nearly all classes will be remote. Cornell also expects to have students on campus this fall. For more information on reopening plans at colleges across the US check out this resource.

June 29: Over 300 colleges and universities in the US have come together to issue a statement to reassure students applying to college this fall that activities, academics, and more that were cut short due to COVID-19 will not be viewed negatively in the admissions process. The statement, “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19,” encourages applicants to engage in self and family care, while also assuring them that the circumstances of this year will not be held against them in the admissions process.

June 23: The ACT has added three national test dates for fall 2020. The new dates are Sept. 19, Oct. 10, and Oct. 17.

June 18: Princeton announced that they will suspend its standardized testing requirement for the 2020-21 application cycle. Students who sit for a standardized test and wish to submit their score will still have the option to do so. Additionally, the University will move to one application deadline of January 1, 2021 for this first-year admission cycle. All applicants will apply using either the Coalition Application or Common Application through the Regular Decision process and will receive admissions decisions by April 1, 2021. Princeton will continue to partner with QuestBridge and participate in the National College Match in December.

June 15: Harvard announces that they will allow students to apply for admission to the university Class of 2025 without requiring standardized test scores.

June 12: Yale was the latest Ivy League university to announce that it will be test-optional for the upcoming admissions cycle.

Brown University will be test-optional for first-year applicants in the 2020-21 admissions cycle.

Washington University in St. Louis announces one-year test-optional policy for applicants in 2021.

June 9: Colleges are continuing to announce their plans for a fall. Here’s a look at some schools’ plans.

June 8: The Coalition application will add a question to this year’s application allowing students and counselors to elaborate on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected education at their schools.

June 3: Dartmouth College announced it will be test-optional for the 2020-21 college admissions cycle. More of the US’s top colleges and universities are going test-optional for the 2020-21 college admissions cycle after the College Board announced it will no longer develop an at-home SAT and no other testing dates will be added in 2020. Here’s a list of colleges going test-optional for the 2020-21 college application season.

June 2: Columbia University will be test-optional for the 2020-21 college admissions cycle. 

The College Board announced today that it will NOT offer an at-home SAT this year and might provide a January 2021 test date.

May 29: The ACT provided a list of closed testing centers. Currently, the ACT plans to continue with the June testing date both in the US and internationally.

The University of Miami announced that it is going test-optional for the next admissions cycle and will be adding an additional supplemental essay.

May 28: Registration for fall SAT dates opens tonight. Students without an SAT score will have priority registration.

The ACT is expected to announce testing center closings for the June exam this week. Check here for a list of testing centers that will have rescheduled exams.

Colleges are reportedly going deeper into their waitlists earlier in order to fill classes for the fall.

More colleges and universities in the US have announced test-optional policies in order to ease the burden for students who will have fewer opportunities to take the SAT and ACT this year.

May 22: The University of California system has voted to phase out the use of the SAT and ACT in the admissions process, fully eliminating the test requirement for all students by 2025.

May 18: After many students encountered issues submitting their responses to AP exams, the College Board is allowing some students to submit their responses via email.

May 14: The ACT announced that it will notify test-takers of any test center closings for the June exam the week of May 26.

May 13: The California State University system has announced that all campuses will remain closed through the fall semester with instruction taking place entirely online.

The Common App is adding a COVID-19 section that will allow students to elaborate on how the current pandemic as affected them. This is separate from the current Additional Information section and will have a 250-word limit.

Stanford University announced it will be making a decision on the fall semester by mid-June, but the university is expecting some degree on online instruction for the 2020-21 academic year.

May 11: Experts are giving more insight into what this fall at colleges might look like and what students are thinking about returning to campus.

April 27: Colleges are giving some insight into what the fall semester might look like at their specific campuses.

Some schools are reopening applications for fall 2020 admission.

April 24: What could the fall semester look like on college campuses? Inside Higher Ed offers some insight.

April 22: Cornell University announced that it will not require applicants to submit SAT/ACT scores for the 2020-21 application cycle.

Colleges are starting to answer questions about what will happen this fall – will campuses be open or will instruction be virtual? Cal State Fullerton was the first to say that, while nothing is final yet, they’re planning to start the fall semester online and gradually move to in-person instruction when it’s safe.

Purdue University announced it’s dedicated to bringing students back to campus in the fall.

The University of Missouri announced it plans to resume in-person instruction in the fall.

Other options schools are considering, including Stanford University and Boston University, are delaying the start of the fall semester to January 2021. Again, no final decisions have been made and probably will not be announced until later this summer.

April 20: The Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Worcester Polytechnic Institute wrote an open letter to high school juniors that was published in the Washington Post, giving advice and guidance on how to approach the coming college admissions season.

April 17: The NCAA announced today that it will not penalize student athletes for pass/fail grading as a result of school closures/response to COVID-19.

April 15: The ACT announced that the June and July tests are still on, with makeup dates offered should the exam need to be rescheduled. The makeup date for the June 13 exam is June 20 and July 25 for the July 18 exam. Students can also change their registration without fees to the makeup dates, and students can also change from the June to July date without a fee. The testing agency also announced it will launch an at-home testing option in the fall/early winter of 2020. 

The College Board has announced that the June SAT is canceled. Students will be able to register for exams in August, a new date in September, October, November, and December in May. TBD on exact registration date. 

April 14: Virginia Tech announced that it will be test-optional for the 2020-21 admissions cycle.

Colleges across the US are making contingency plans should campuses stay closed this fall – but no decisions will be made any time soon.

April 13: Swarthmore College announced it will be test-optional for the next two admissions cycles.

April 10: IvyWise will be holding three webinars on Facebook Live next week to help students prepare for the college admissions process this fall and answer parent and student questions! Visit our Facebook page on these dates and times to tune in!

  • Wednesday, April 15 at 8 am ET
  • Wednesday, April 15 at 8 pm ET
  • Friday, April 17 at 9 am ET

More colleges announced test-optional policies for the 2020-21 admissions cycle. A full list can be found here.

April 7: Northeastern University announced it will be test-optional for the 2020-21 admissions cycle.

April 6: Williams and Amherst announced they will adopt test-optional policies for the 2020-21 admissions cycle.

April 3: The College Board released more information about the upcoming at-home AP exams this afternoon, including the schedule, information on make ups, and that the exams will be open book/note.

April 1: The University of California system announced today that they will be relaxing admissions requirements for students, including going test optional for fall 2021 admission. They are also suspending the letter grade requirement for courses completed in the first half of 2020 for students enrolling for fall 2020 in order to accommodate pass/fail grading.

March 31: While the list of colleges extending their enrollment deadlines to June 1 is over 300, close to 500 are keeping their May 1 deposit deadline, including high-profile institutions like NYU, Boston University, UCLA, USC, Duke, UChicago, and more.

March 30: “At least 17 colleges have dropped the SAT or ACT in recent weeks for one or two admissions cycles, specifically citing the impact of COVID-19.”

The UNC system approved new admissions standards to take effect a year earlier than planned in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

March 27: A take-home testing option is now available for students taking the GRE and TOEFL.

March 25: Boston University announced a test-optional policy for students applying to the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters.

University of Oregon is also going test-optional for students applying this fall for the freshman class enrolling fall of 2021.

March 24: Tufts University announced that it will go test-optional for a three-year period starting this fall in response to “extraordinary circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

March 23: IB exams scheduled for this May have been canceled. Students will be awarded a diploma or course certificate depending on what they had registered for. More details will be available on March 27.

March 21: Students taking the GRE will have the option to take the graduate admissions examination at home.

MCAT exams scheduled for March 27 and April 4 have been canceled.

Students registered for the March LSAT will be automatically rescheduled for the April 25 test.

March 20: The College Board announced that AP exams WILL NOT take place in person this year. Instead, students will be able to take a 45-minute online exam at home. For each subject there will be two different testing dates. The full exam schedule as well as the free response questions and other details will be available April 3. For more information visit the AP updates site here.

The UK Department of Education announced that “this year’s summer exam series, including A levels, GCSEs and other qualifications, and all primary assessments, have been cancelled.”

International ACT testing dates have been postponed. The April 3 and 4 international ACT test dates have been pushed to June 13 and 14 in response to the coronavirus.

MIT announced that they will no longer consider SAT Subject Tests as part of the application process starting with the 2020-21 admissions cycle.

March 19: The IB announced that they will be making a deicsion on May IB exams no later than March 27. We will update as soon as more information is available.

March 18: IvyWise held a Facebook live event with counselor Christine to update families on how school closures and admissions exam cancellations can affect college prep. Christine also answered some questions from students and parents. You can watch the full session here. 

Case Western Reserve University announced that it will be going test-optional for the class of 2021 admissions season in response to test cancellations due to coronavirus.

March 16: The College Board announced it’s canceling the May 2nd SAT exam. They also announced that they are exploring options for the May AP exams, including a take-home option. More information will be available March 20.

The ACT announced it’s postponing the April 4 exams to June 13.

Also be sure to visit the NACAC website for a great resource on school closures, deadline extensions, and more.

Related Topics

12th Grade, College Visits, COVID-19, Test Prep

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