COVID-19 and College Admissions

How to Apply During a Pandemic


Every fall, high school seniors around the nation face the daunting task of college admissions. “Standardized testing,” “personal statement,” “transcript,” and “extracurriculars,” all become part of students’ every day vocabulary. But this year, in light of the ongoing pandemic, admissions may look a bit different, perhaps causing even more stress for applicants.

Since the initial shutdown in March, the entire college process has been altered significantly. Hen Hud senior Daniela Lastras spoke of how coronavirus has affected her college search, preventing her from visiting campuses over the summer.

“As someone who started their college search a little later,” she said, “COVID-19 has made it extremely difficult for me to tour colleges.” 

Daniela mentioned that out of all the schools she is considering, she has only visited about a third of them, leaving her with difficult decisions on where to apply.

On the other hand, the pandemic has opened a window for colleges to start providing more accessible options than on campus tours and information sessions. Many schools have virtual tours on their websites, and have begun to host live events over Zoom. For students applying to schools far away, this may actually work as an advantage, as they are able to experience all the college has to offer, without the long trip.

COVID-19 also influenced summer plans in other ways, preventing students from adding resume boosters like internships, pre-college classes and work experiences to their application.

For Daniela, she “struggled to obtain data from the lab [she’s] interning in,” as interns are not yet allowed back, which “made it harder to write [her] scientific paper” for the Science Research program, something she wants to highlight in her application.

Furthermore, with an entire spring and summer’s worth of SAT and ACT dates canceled, many students have had few opportunities to take standardized tests, leaving them with scores they are not happy with, or no score at all. Luckily, over 500 colleges and universities across the United States have adopted a fully test-optional policy, allowing students to opt out of sending their scores. However, many still wonder if it will put them at a disadvantage.

Jeffrey Selingo, a college admissions expert who recently released a book titled, “Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions,” told The New York Times in an interview that he believes test-optional truly means test-optional. 

“This is not a normal year,” he said, “too many students can’t take a test… for colleges to largely ignore their applications.” 

Selingo also addressed that, even in a normal year, test scores are not the only indicator colleges use to return an admissions decision for a student. Other factors, including GPA and course rigor are far more important.

What about all of the deferrals?

The over 20 percent of first-years at Harvard who deferred enrollment made national news. But most college admissions experts agree that it will not drastically impact admissions for the applying class of 2025.

Seth Allen, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Pomona College, offered a variety of solutions as to how schools are handling the deferrals.

He stated that “institutions will want to admit as close to normal a number of students as possible this year,” potentially by increasing total class sizes for the class of 2025.

After all, in the midst of a shutdown, colleges have to compensate for lost revenue somehow.

With deadlines fast approaching, seniors do not have much time to finalize their college list and complete their applications. But they can rest assured that despite the craziness of 2020, colleges will accommodate students as best they can, and ensure a fair application season for everyone.

Happy applying!


The expert quotes and information included in this article was compiled from:

“College Admissions in the Pandemic: An Expert’s View”

“Applying to College During the Pandemic?”

“Will coronavirus change college admissions?”

“Five Ways the COVID-19 pandemic Could Affect Your College Application”