Colleges adapt their application process due to COVID-19

Changing from the inside out

With the postponement of SAT and ACT tests country-wide, many incoming juniors and seniors are left wondering how COVID-19 will affect the application process as well as seniors making  final decisions for colleges.

Many schools have had to change their education curriculum and grading systems to accommodate the stay-at-home mandate. This may cause a strain or absence of assignments and grades for many students. So how are colleges accommodating for these changes?

According to the UC Admissions board, they have taken major steps to try and make it less stressful for students who are going to be attending their schools next year and those who will be applying next year. They have “temporarily suspended the letter grade requirements for a-g courses completed in spring of 2020” to accommodate those who transitioned into a pass/fail grading system. They have also dropped the test requirements for the 2020 application process.

Many colleges are looking to also follow suit, including California Lutheran University, California State University Schools and many more, both in-state and out-of-state. A list of schools that are going test-optional can be found at FairTest.

The lack of emphasis on test scores, with some schools not even requiring them, can cause a shift in how college admissions look at an application.

“I believe Admissions Officers are going to put more weight on the personal insight questions, grades, and extracurricular activities.” College and Career Center specialist Paula Friedman said.

According to Friedman and her College and Career Center colleague Julie Prince, to fairly assess GPAs, some colleges may look less at spring semester 2020 and focus more on fall semester 2020. This may also help those who are unable to take any make-up standardized test due to personal circumstances. According to the College Board, the SAT has been moved back and will begin again in August.  The ACT, according to, will start up again in June. Both of these standardized tests are also looking into the possibility of online testing.

“Regardless of whether or not students submit test scores, [admissions counselors] are going to be looking very carefully at the courses that students took and the grades that students got in those courses,” Friedman said.

Some colleges may even add a question about what students did during the COVID-19 quarantine. They may look at what students did to try and improve themselves and find out what interests them. Now can be a good time to research colleges and careers that you might want to pursue in the future.

“[College admissions] want the students to do something other than making TikTok videos and playing video games. They want to see that students discovered something that interested them and was meaningful. Look for something at home or virtually that you truly enjoy doing,” Prince said.

During times when everything is fluid, and things can change from day to day, it is important to know what the colleges that you are interested in are doing in response to COVID-19. Every college will handle this situation differently, and it is important to stay updated on the general as well as the specific.

Friedman and Prince both suggest that you attend as many webinars and virtual activities as possible, both from the colleges themselves and from Oak Park High School, to get a better grip on everything that is happening. Naviance is also an available free tool that can be used to build a resume and learn more about different colleges and careers.

“Naviance is a really good tool for students to use because you are not only able to search for colleges but also careers and potential courses for your future,” junior Sophia Loparco said. “It is a really good way to keep track of the colleges that you like and learn more about what interests you.”

Class of 2021 will have a different experience than applicants of previous years. The fact that a lot of schools are going temporarily test-optional is causing a new way for juniors to look at themselves as applicants.

“There were a lot of people who took the test earlier on and they spent a lot of time studying for it, so it makes them feel like it was a waste of time,” said Loparco, “I hope that when they make the tests more available that students take the tests and that opportunity.”

As for the class of 2020 who have already heard back from their schools, the prospect of deciding where to go may be a little more confusing. To accommodate these unforeseen circumstances, some schools have opted to push back decision dates until June 1.

“It truly shows that in difficult times, flexibility is extremely helpful — especially when it comes to making life-changing decisions,” senior Sam Barney-Gibbs wrote to the Talon.