College Admissions During COVID-19

The college admission process can be a scary and stressful time for juniors around the country no matter what, however, the class of 2021 is feeling extra pressure as standardized tests are getting canceled and education moves online. 

“Personally, I am worried that I won’t be able to take the ACT in June. I’m also worried that if I can’t take it until September, the longer I have to wait to take it and the longer we’re kind of out of school, I’m just gonna have brain drain,” Francesca Brown ‘21, who has only taken the ACT once right after her sophomore year, said. “I’m worried that I’ll have a brain drain for like two months longer than I usually would for the summer. And even though I am doing optional learning, I feel like it’s not really the same as going into school every day, especially since we’re, they’re only allowed to give us like one to three hours a week.”

Students who had registered for the SAT taking place on June 6 received an email on Wednesday, April 15, announcing that it had been canceled. The ACT test that was scheduled to happen on April 4 was canceled and will take place on June 13. However, some students are unsure whether or not the June 13 ACT will still take place.

“I’m all stressed because we really just don’t know what to expect. Like, if we’re gonna still be able to take it and what colleges are going to think about it,” Harper Denniston ‘21 said. “I was doing some tutoring that now we obviously can’t do. So it’s been kind of stressful but I think that colleges are going to be pretty adaptable, with everything that’s going on so I just have to wait and see.”

On Thursday, April 23, the College Board sent an email out announcing that there will be an SAT test date on Saturday, September 26, 2020. Registration for 2020-2021 SAT tests will open the week of May 26, and those who were registered for a test that was canceled or who do not have a score yet will be able to register early. 

With these changes in testing, many colleges are going test-optional for their admissions processes. Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio, has made the decision to go test-optional for the next three years for the classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023. 

“It didn’t seem right to say to one student who has all the resources and opportunities to sit in a nice quiet place, they have their own laptop and internet access to take the SAT online on their own,” Josh Levy, the Assistant director of admissions at Oberlin, said. “Whereas another student might have parents, and let’s say two siblings, and they have one computer for a three-bedroom apartment, and they’re not gonna have a quiet place to take it. And so we just felt that this was a question of equity that students weren’t gonna have the same opportunities to be ready to do their very best on the exam.”

Another problem that prospective college students face is not being able to visit colleges and tour their campuses. At Coe College, in Cedar Rapids, virtual tours are being offered.

“Coe has expanded opportunities to visit campus virtually,” Josh Kite, Dean of Admission at Coe College, said. “These visits include phone or video meetings with admission counselors, faculty, staff, and coaches as well as a virtual campus tour.”

Although schools are adapting by going test-optional, some juniors fear that they will still be put at a disadvantage against other students who had the opportunity to take the standardized tests.  

“We all had a chance to take it, but now it just feels like now that we don’t have a chance and it’s kind of unfair,” Denniston said. “For example, if some people are using their scores, and they did really well and there are other people who literally just can’t take it right now. I’m a bit worried about how it’s gonna affect choosing one person or another [and whether or not you’ll get in].”

Other students who’ve taken the tests and gotten good scores, on the other hand, hope that their scores don’t go unaccounted for. Tobey Epstein ‘21 took the ACT in February and was happy with his score. 

“It’s a little scary because I worked really hard to get the good score that I got. I hope now that that work isn’t for nothing. So that’s a little scary. I’d just like my score to count and–, be able to help me get into a better college,” Epstein said.