Coronavirus Creates Challenges for College Admissions

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Close up of office of admissions sign.

College admissions officials are being forced to rethink their metrics for admitting students for the 2021-2022 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angel Pérez, CEO of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, told NPR that students’ applications are likely not to have SAT and ACT scores. In addition, since many high schools either switched to pass/fail grading or closed doors completely in the spring, students may be missing a semester or more of grades as well as extracurricular activities.

At some colleges and universities, officials are considering using Advanced Placement scores, writing samples, and other innovative criteria to determine students’ eligibility for admission.

“We’ve told the students give us what you think best represents you in an academic space and let us see what we can do with that,” said Kedra Ishop, vice president for enrollment management at the University of Southern California.

Officials are also contemplating placing more focus on students’ character. According to NPR, at the annual conference of the Common Application this year, admissions officials participated in sessions on how to consider “personal qualities” in the application process.

While these changes in college applications are causing concern for some officials, others think they could potentially be revolutionary.

Pérez noted that deemphasizing standardized tests, which many see as biased, could level the playing field for college applicants. These biases are usually in regard to lower income students who may not have the financial means or access to test preparation that their more affluent peers have. The same goes for the move to virtual visits, which will make it easier for students who cannot afford travel for campus tours.

However, other issues may exacerbate inequities in student applications. For example, many students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds lack access to reliable high-speed internet and electronic devices in their homes, making it difficult for them to complete online applications.