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  • Writer's pictureChris Tamis

Navigating college admissions through the COVID-19 Crisis

Updated: Feb 10, 2023


What a difference a day makes!


Confused, stressed, worried, unsure, upset . . . join the club; we are all navigating uncharted waters at this point! Every day brings changes to our world no one could have ever anticipated.


The point to remember is not to panic. This is of utmost importance during our everyday lives, but it also should be stressed when it comes to your upcoming college admissions journey. EVERY student in the country is feeling what you are feeling and will be forced to deal with situations no one could have anticipated.


Below, I address some points I hope will promote calm in this time of crisis and provide facts over rumors. I also provide some real-time alternatives to fill the void due to canceled classes, clubs, sports, and social interaction.


SAT and ACT exams

Perhaps the most significant source of stress is the cancellation and pending uncertainty over upcoming SAT and ACT exam dates. Juniors counted on having additional testing dates available to improve scores, and younger students looked forward to taking their first exams. My best advice is to register now for what is currently available. Use this time to better prepare by continuing to work with your tutors, taking practice exams, and working on test-taking time management.


As for the future, I would hope that both the SAT and ACT will add additional dates to compensate for the canceled exams. I also believe we will see an increase in the number of schools switching to a "test-optional" policy for undergraduate admissions. Several colleges have already announced they will temporarily "waive" the standardized test requirement for 2020-21 applicants. Continue to consider these exams a priority as you prepare to apply to college. Stay ahead of the curve on this one!


SAT subject tests

Unfortunately, for the small percentage of students planning to take the SAT subject tests in May, these exams are canceled as well. The plan is to have students take the subject tests in June, but the administration of that exam is subject to the status of the health crisis. The big thing to remember is that SAT subject tests are only "required" for a very small percentage of specific schools and programs. Moving forward, their importance will most likely be extremely diminished (and they have never truly been a big part of the admissions process anyway). If you end up taking them and do very well (a score above 720 or higher), they can certainly help, but their absence will likely not affect your application.


AP exams

Of concern to many juniors and seniors is the administration of your current class AP exams. The College Board has announced that on March 20th, it will release plans to deal with the upcoming exams. The thought is they will offer some kind of take-home exam, but let's wait and see. Remember, the AP scores have never been part of your admissions package and only serve to provide you with credits once you are admitted.


Regents exams

There is no plan in place to deal with NYS regents exams. The state will evaluate the situation and render a decision soon, I hope. Take-home is an option, as well as wholesale cancellation. Aside from New York State schools and diploma distinctions, the NYS regents exams play a small role in admissions.


IB exams

The coronavirus has adversely affected international Baccalaureate classes and exams; please visit this link to keep updated:


High school grades

Although it will be challenging to navigate your high school classes "virtually," try to keep up and maintain your grades as they have always been. It will probably be a more critical gauge of what colleges and universities use to review your application. Many school districts across the country have already announced they will transition to a "pass/fail" grading system for the remainder of the year. Whatever happens, don't worry; it affects everyone in your district you won't be penalized. Additionally, for the seniors, colleges will still expect a final transcript to be sent in late June, so don't give up on classes.


Researching colleges

For the sophomores and juniors just beginning to look into potential schools, utilize all the online resources available to explore your options. My clients, please continue to use Guided Path as a research tool. Try to research potential majors and career options as well. Your generation lives online; put those skills to work!


Committing without visiting

How do you commit to a school you have never visited? Many seniors are nervous about sending in admissions deposits without attending accepted student days and doing final tours. Schools have been very reactive to this and have implemented several alternative methods to try and convince you to attend (remember, once you were accepted, the tide turned, and they are pursuing YOU now). Look on admissions web pages to see what they offer. Options I have seen include; live chats, blogs, live streams, webinars, virtual tours, Facebook groups, and even personal calls and emails to students from admissions counselors. If you were waitlisted, you might also see your chances for recall increase as students change their minds about where to attend.

Take it all in; if you initially prepared your list correctly (if you worked with me, you did!), you will have great options! Sometimes, you just need to follow your heart . . .


Commitment deadlines

Many schools have extended the May 1st college commitment deadline to June 1st. Here is a link that provides updated information regarding this as well as campus tours:


Appealing merit aid

A positive that may come out of this for seniors is that colleges are very worried about fall admissions numbers. Your potential for appeal for additional merit aid has increased as students reconsider their college choice decisions based on affordability and geographic location. If you received more merit aid from a comparable college, you might use that as a basis for your appeal. Additionally, the loss of parental income due to this crisis is also a powerful component of the appeal. Keep your appeal simple and honest, and keep your expectations reasonable.


How will this affect the class of 2021 admissions?

Unfortunately, this crisis is going to have an impact on your admissions cycle, although the exact extent is unknown. Many students will use situations arising from this crisis as essay topics, and many schools will place much less importance on the SAT and ACT. Extracurricular activities, employment, and summer internship opportunities will be limited. Some students will allow grades to slip, and application numbers will generally be lower (although acceptances and yields may increase). A theory is that colleges will also emphasize your 9th and 10th-grade classes more than they previously have. Do your best to continue to paint a bright picture of yourself, both academically and personally.


Utilizing your downtime

After the initial shock, try to be productive with your downtime. Continue to prep for standardized exams (you will eventually be retaking them), keep up with your high school courses, research potential colleges, or finalize your decision. Graduating seniors (and often high school juniors utilizing a dual enrollment program), consider taking an online college-level course this summer to keep you in the academic spirit (community college classes are cost-effective and transferable). DO NOT use this time to postpone tasks related to your college admissions process; getting a head start now will save you stress and anxiety later.


Remember to stay healthy and positive . . .



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