COVID-19 and College Admissions – Now What?

Phoebe Keyes, Senior College Admission Advisor Mar 2020

When everyone told you junior year could be stressful, they probably didn’t account for the possibility of school closures, rescheduled standardized test dates, canceled college visits, and global panic. 

If it makes you feel any better, colleges are feeling stressed out, too. They’re still scrambling to admit this year’s freshman class, so it might take them a little while to figure out how they’ll readjust requirements to account for this extraordinary change in circumstances. Try to be patient with them. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know: 

Rescheduled Standardized Tests

At this point, only a few colleges have announced official changes to their testing requirements. It’s very likely, however, that in the coming weeks—and especially if more test dates are rescheduled—schools will begin to adjust their policies accordingly, especially in regard to SAT Subject Test requirements. We’ll likely see some schools drop the requirement for the 2021 class entirely. Others might move from required to optional or ask students to take one subject test instead of two. 

Make sure you keep an eye on this blog. We’ll keep you posted on changes to college policy. (You can also monitor announcements directly from College Board.) In the meantime, it’s important to keep preparing as you normally would. Those skills can atrophy fast, and—with fewer opportunities to take tests—you want to make each exam count. 

For now, the ACT and the SAT have cancelled their April and May 2020 exam dates. The College Board just today announced students may take 45-minute AP exams online, but if your school has disbanded AP classes, don’t panic. Content has been revised to reflect what should have been taught so far. If you’re required to take APs—or if the grade you receive in class is correlated with your exam score—make sure you continue to study. That said, though AP scores can help you fulfill college course requirements, your application won’t really suffer from the absence of AP scores. Colleges are most concerned that you took on the rigors of an AP-level class.

Junior Year Transcripts

Everyone’s junior year transcript is going to look a little weird. It’s okay. You’re not alone, and colleges will evaluate your transcript within the context of your high school’s policy. If your school is doing distance learning, make sure you still give it your all. Those grades will matter

Some schools are changing from letter grades to a Pass/Fail model this semester.* This is also fine. Colleges understand. 

* If you are a recruited athlete hoping to play Division I or II sports, make sure you talk to your high school. The NCAA has GPA requirements, which may not allow for Pass/Fail classes. At this point, the NCAA hasn’t officially announced changes to their policy. Make sure you work out a contingency plan with your high school—it’s possible they might be able to make an exception for athletes.

College Visits

Many of you were probably hoping to use spring break to visit college campuses. Though it’s always nice to visit while class is in session, you’ll still be able to get a good feel for schools over the summer. In the meantime, many colleges offer virtual tours on their websites. 

Of course, visits also prove demonstrated interest. If you signed up for a tour before it was canceled, you’ll still get credit for trying. Make sure, though, that colleges still know you’re interested. Sign up for mailing lists. Consider emailing your regional rep to introduce yourself and let them know that, despite not being able to visit right now, you love the school and can’t wait to see it in person. 

Making the Best Use of Your Time Away from School

While most of you will still have plenty of school work to keep you busy, try make use of the time you otherwise would have spent visiting colleges and other canceled activities. 

  • Start brainstorming and writing your Common App essay. Since a larger portion of your summer will now likely be devoted to visiting colleges, do yourself a favor and get started now. 
  • Get creative with your extracurricular activities. Collaborate with friends to move club meetings to a virtual format. Start applying to summer internships or use this time to throw yourself into a neglected hobby: finish coding that app, write and submit an article to an online publication, or map out a plan for a fall charity event. 

We Are All in This Together

Remind yourself that everyone applying to college next year is facing the same challenges. When it comes time to read applications, colleges—even those who don’t change their official policies—will do so with the full awareness that students were dealing with circumstances beyond their control. These are uncharted waters, but everyone’s in the same boat. We promise: your applications will be read holistically and in context. It’s going to be fine. 

About Empire Edge

Empire Edge is a premier educational services company serving students in New York City and the surrounding areas.  We deliver exemplary academic assistance and standardized test preparation to students of all levels. Through classes and one-on-one meetings, our team strives to create a personal connection to the subject matter, bolstering mastery and self-confidence in the process.


2021 2020 2019
© 2021 Empire Edge