Colleges make adjustments as class of 2021 starts applying with pandemic impacts

Posted at 3:11 PM, Oct 27, 2020

Many high school seniors around the country are finalizing their college applications. As officials begin reviewing students' transcripts and extracurricular activities, they want to offer reassurance that there will be understanding when it comes to accommodating students who've had their high school careers thwarted by 2020.

"Parents are very anxious about what’s going to happen to their children. How is the application process? Where will they go? Students are anxious because the SATs and ACTs are canceled, and they're coming on board slowly but surely. But what does this mean? They didn’t have grades , most of them, coming out of junior year because things went pass/fail or credit/no credit and now they've been hybrid environments, as well," said Ben Matthew Corpus, Vice Provost of Enrollment at Florida Polytechnic University, an all-STEM university.

Corpus says there's a lot of anxiety among college-hopeful students right now. But he and other university admissions officials say not to stress. Admissions committees are also making adjustments, even with the state university system in Florida still requiring their applicants take the SAT.

"The challenge with that is, if I was a junior last spring and I was planning to take the SAT, it got canceled. And so I thought, 'OK, maybe I’ll take it in the summer,' and it got canceled as well. And now we’re into fall and there are not that many test dates and now the admission deadlines are upon us, what will I do," said Corpus.

Florida Poly wants to assure students that they can still apply, and this year they won't be weighing SAT and ACT scores heavily on their college applications.

At the University of Denver, they are test optional. In other words, taking the SAT or ACT is not a requirement.

"Last year our full pool of 22,000, 25% of our applicant pool applied test optional and we anticipate with far fewer sites to test this year that could be 40-50% or more. And we’re okay with that, if we have more than half of our pool applying test optional this year, we’ll make it work," said Todd Rinehart, Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management at the University of Denver.

"I think the main sense that our staff has on right now is flexibility and patience. We just know it's going to be different," said Rinehart.

Rinehart has some advice for parents and children who are applying to college this fall: don't stress about the extracurriculars or lack of any during 2020.

"Those things didn’t carry a lot of weight to begin with. When you really peel the onion back, admission committees are primary looking at the rigor of your curriculum and performance in class and all those other things maybe added up are maybe 10-15% of the decision but really the bulk of the decision is still the student’s academic record," said Rinehart.

But what about those students who've suffered academically because of the pandemic or online learning?

"If you’re online a few days, I know it's just easier for students to miss assignments or a quiz or test or they just don’t test as well doing something online than in person. So, yes, we got through this season of applicants with incredible eyes wide open and with just a sense of flexibility and understanding," said Rinehart.

Rinehart adds students should be reassured that they will still get a fair and consistent evaluation and that no child should have 2020 work against them any more than it already has.