COVID has Affected college application process

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Christian Felan ’23, Nicholas Goodman ’22, Nicolas Valladolid ’23

In the past, colleges have relied heavily on standardized testing to determine the competitiveness of applications for admission. However, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, ACT and SAT testing across the US has been hampered. With this in mind, colleges have been scrambling to find ways to evaluate the students’ applications with testing playing a reduced role.

“Basically across the country Corona resulted in massive cancellations of testing,” Strake Jesuit College Counselor Dr. Richard Clinton said.

As test center coordinator, Dr. Clinton administers the ACT and SAT testing on the Strake Jesuit campus. He has found that the biggest challenge for seniors until recently was finding a location to take a test.

“Majority of our seniors hadn’t been able to take a standardized test,” Dr. Clinton said. However, more testing became available this fall. Strake Jesuit even hosted a mid-week SAT test in October.

Still, the struggle since March to take standardized tests has led almost all colleges to alter their testing requirements. Universities have adapted and are now either test optional or test blind. 

“Test optional means that a student doesn’t have to submit a test for their application to be complete.Test blind means that the universities will not look at a test score even if it’s submitted,” Dr. Clinton said.

Test optional still gives students the choice to submit strong scores. That can help their chances with admissions. However, even without scores, a student can still submit a strong application.

“Standardized testing is only one piece of the college application puzzle,” Dr. Clinton said. 

Mr. Jeff Fuller, the Strake Jesuit Director of College Counseling, agrees. 

“Holistic admissions are now prominent among admissions departments, as the absence of statistical data coming from the test scores has forced a greater emphasis on the non-statistical portion of the application, like the essay and letters of recommendation,” Mr. Fuller said. “The writing portion of the application has grown great in strength with the changes brought by the pandemic.”

This time around, the essay is likely to hold more weight than ever before. 

“Make sure you take the essay seriously and thoroughly revise it before submission,” Mr. Fuller said. “You may display your personal writing style once at the university, but the application essay is your chance to give your qualifications pitch to the school. Colleges remember the essays and remember the stories.” 

In addition to the essay, interacting with colleges is a great opportunity to strengthen an application. 

“A vital part of a student’s journey through the admissions process is their ability to demonstrate interest,” Mr. Fuller said.  “College admissions is a business. They look at everything from the number of campus visits scheduled, the density of the application submitted, the amount of school emails you open, and the number of times you’ve visited their school website. Admission officers remember their visit with a student. They can tell if students seem to be engaged. Make sure you have questions and your screen is on when you meet with an officer. They will remember these things when they get to committee.”

Demonstrating interest in colleges may be difficult during these times, but it is still a crucial part of the admissions process. Visiting college websites, going to Zoom meetings, and online tours will have a big impact. 

“In times like these where visits and meetings are limited, it is crucial to take advantage of your opportunities,” Mr. Fuller said.

Athletic recruiting has also been impacted by the pandemic.

“The process of student-athletes getting scouted by universities has become increasingly difficult in these times where sporting events are rare and there are limited opportunities to display athletic ability,” Mr. Fuller said. “NCAA regulations require all interviews and meetings to happen only by phone or by email, which is a hard way for student-athletes to pitch their physical capabilities to scouts. However, like Strake Jesuit, The NCAA has lifted other requirements to ease the process for students, like a recent lift of the requirement of an ACT/SAT submission in order to play.”

College admissions is an ever-changing process in 2020. It is important to remember all of the changes and opportunities to take advantage of. 

“Take your time,” Mr. Fuller said. “If you get started on your application months prior, you will be able to comfortably maximize the content of your application.”