College Admissions and the Pandemic

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Libby Frumento, Staff Writer

Besides the noticeable change in the atmosphere of colleges and universities, the pandemic has altered the entire process of college admissions. Last March, as the CDC began encouraging people to take the necessary safety precautions, was essentially the beginning of the ongoing transformation that society has been forced to undergo. This transformation is evident within college communities, where masks are required and some courses are taught through online learning. Students are unable to communicate with both their peers and teachers as they once had in previous years. The admissions process has also had to adhere to regulations and tweak their processes accordingly, creating a new system through which the recent graduating classes will have to navigate.

Standardized testing used to be an essential part of the college admissions process, as every student had to submit either an SAT or ACT score along with their application. Throughout 2020, testing centers were not available for participants looking to take either exam because of the increase in Covid-19 cases, which prevented in-person gatherings. Colleges were forced to accommodate the needs of students and announce that when applying, students did not need to submit test scores. With elite schools, especially the Ivies, a high test score was almost always necessary;  with the elimination of this requirement, students were not hesitant to apply to their ‘reach’ schools because they did not need to have a high score anyway. Forbes Magazine states, “After the pandemic forced most schools to adopt test-optional admission policies, applications soared at the nation’s most selective schools”. Schools like Havard and Yale have had their lowest acceptance rates resulting from the number of applicants increasing dramatically. Due to the pandemic, the competition that was already high in elite schools is increasing.

As an outcome of not requiring standardized testing, students’ essays and personal connections are having greater significance in the admissions decision. The common application (or common app) is a way for students to convey their life experiences and ultimately the kind of person they are. According to NPR, “ One change many colleges are considering is to put more focus on students’ character. The “character movement” has been growing for a while, but the pandemic is fueling interest among many.” Neha Gupta, founder of College Shortcuts said, “during the last year they have seen the emphasis shift from the focus on test scores to a greater emphasis on the student’s story” (WUSA9). Diving deep into personal stories that demonstrate one’s contribution to society is becoming more and more crucial in college admissions. 

Many students feel as though test scores are not the overall demonstration of their intelligence, and most importantly it is not a representation of their character, so the greater emphasis on essays as well as demonstrated interest can ultimately benefit students. Questions still remain unanswered as to how these changes will continue for future applicants after the pandemic has ended. If these alterations in college admissions continue, students will have more opportunity to show their true personalities as universities have grown to appreciate.