Colleges and universities across the country have been forced to make some big changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Residence halls have been vacated and class meetings canceled in order to comply with social distancing measures put in place to stop the spread of the potentially deadly novel coronavirus.

Professors have embraced distance technology in an effort to replicate their instruction in a virtual environment. Some have even initiated important scientific research in order to help us all learn more about the virus and how to mitigate it.

It seems COVID-19 has touched all aspects of college life, and the admissions process is no exception. Increasingly, we are witnessing institutions of higher education tweaking their admissions guidelines in order to adapt to the unique time we’re all living in. High school seniors in particular, many of whom were applying to colleges when the pandemic began, have been blindsided by this public health crisis.  In this article, we’ll discuss some of the ways college admissions requirements are changing and what these changes will mean for prospective students.  

Colleges and Universities Are Going Test Optional

For decades, most colleges and universities have relied on college entrance exams to inform admissions decisions. SAT and/or ACT scores have been mainstays of the application process for college hopefuls. In recent years, some colleges and universities around the country have considered dropping this portion of the admissions process, stating concerns over how well these standardized tests actually assess college readiness.

Fast forward to 2020, and the coronavirus pandemic has forced even the most traditional, pro-test schools to consider waiving college entrance exam requirements, at least temporarily. The reason for the shift is multi-faceted but mainly has to do with access to testing. The current public health crisis has forced the College Board to cancel SAT tests , and the ACT scheduled for early April has been postponed.  This makes it difficult for students to take or re-take these entrance exams in order to present schools with their best scores.

Many colleges and universities have also recognized the unique anxieties students are experiencing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and are hoping to ease some of the worries over their future academic careers.

“By removing artificial barriers and decreasing stressors — including suspending the use of the SAT — for this unprecedented moment in time, we hope there will be less worry for our future students.”

-John A. Perez, University of California Board of Regents, Chair

For some schools, the coronavirus pandemic was just the tipping point for an admissions policy change that was already in the works. The University of the Cumberlands , for instance, was already considering scrapping college entrance exams altogether, citing “a growing body of evidence” that standardized tests don’t predict college success.

Other schools are preparing to experiment with the test-optional policy for a period of time. Tufts University , for example, is waiving standardized test requirements for the next three years, after which the school will re-evaluate the need for test scores. For Boston University, though, the test-optional policy will be a one-year-only adjustment to the standard admissions process.  

Below are the schools that have announced a test-optional policy in light of the public health crisis, listed alphabetically:

  • Alma College
  • Boston University
  • Case Western University
  • Chestnut Hill College
  • Clarkson University
  • Concordia University- Texas
  • Davidson College
  • Drury University
  • Franklin College
  • Indiana Institute of Technology
  • Indiana University- Northwest
  • Kent State University
  • Limestone College
  • Mansfield University of Pennsylvania
  • Millersville University of Pennsylvania
  • Neumann University
  • Newberry College
  • Oregon State University
  • Quincy University
  • Rowan University
  • Scripps College
  • St. Catherine University
  • Tarleton State University
  • Trinity University
  • Tufts University
  • University of California
  • University of Mobile
  • University of Oregon
  • University of the Cumberlands
  • Westminster College (PA)
  • William Woods University
  • University of Akron
  • University of North Carolina
  • Valdosta State University

Schools to Cut Application Fees

Of course, the novel coronavirus has taken its toll on the economy as well. As a result, institutions of higher learning across the U.S. have considered the impact the economic downturn will have on students wishing to apply to college. Many of them have been proactive about lessening the financial burden on their applicants. The following schools (listed in alphabetical order) have waived or reduced application fees for the Fall 2020 semester:

  • Kent State University
  • University of Akron
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Valdosta State University
  • Villa Maria College
  • West Texas A&M University
  • Western Illinois University

Colleges and Universities to Move Deadlines for Applications and/or Scholarships

Time is another consideration many schools are making in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. These colleges and universities realize that right now, some students may simply need more time to make decisions related to their academic futures. Therefore, a grace period of sorts has been granted to students applying to select universities.

Other schools have extended deadlines for scholarship applications in the spirit of giving everyone a little bit of flexibility in what has proven to be a very challenging time. Some of the schools relaxing deadlines for admissions applications and/or scholarships include:

  • Austin Peay State University
  • Kent State University
  • Fairmont State University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • University of Akron
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of South Florida
  • West Texas A&M University

What’s Next for College Admissions?

The future is less certain than ever, but we can expect to see more changes to the higher education landscape in the months and perhaps even years to come. Colleges and universities across the nation are struggling to adapt with the coronavirus pandemic in many of the same ways that their prospective students are. The disruption will no doubt cause ripple effects that students, professors, and administration will be grappling with for the foreseeable future. With some luck, these institutions will find a way to ensure students get the education they need, despite all obstacles.

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