COVID-19 came with a multitude of unpredictable changes in in all areas of our lives. From changes in how the health care system operates to changes in businesses and higher education, the pandemic brought about many adjustments that are here to stay.
One area that has been affected by the pandemic and other current social events is the field of college admissions. After realizing how differently various communities were affected, many institutions decided to adjust the way they assess and accept applications. Some of the most significant changes in college admissions as noted by college planners are:
As challenges for many communities have become even more apparent with the pandemic and recent events such as the deaths of unarmed Black community members George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, many institutions decided they needed to change and hold themselves responsible for this disproportionate treatment. As a result, a new question created by the Common App, one of the leading applications forms for students and universities in America, was added to the application this year about “community disruption.”
The new question asks applicants how recent events, such as the pandemic, have affected them and helps universities better understand the obstacles students faced. For example, Mardell Maxwell, executive director of admissions at Houston University, explained that these significant recent events “forced us to rethink the admissions process and what it means for college access.” Unfortunately, the admissions process at many universities has proven to be highly selective in specific areas, such as ethnicity and testing scores.
Optional Test Scores
One of the biggest changes in college admissions is the change in testing policies for those who are applying. Many universities switched their policies to be test-optional or test-blind when assessing applications. Because the early months of the pandemic made it hard for many people to take standardized tests because of safety concerns, many colleges began rethinking the admissions testing process altogether.
Once a number of universities adopted test-optional policies, they saw a drastic increase in application rates, especially from non-white students, showing precisely the disproportionate struggles that many low-income and ethnic communities face. Harvard’s dean of admissions, William Fitzsimmons, said, “We were delighted to see the diversity and strength in this year’s applicant pool.” Both Harvard and Columbia saw increases of over 40% in applications when changing their policies to be test-optional or test-blind. Yet, they have kept their reputation of being two of the most highly selective universities in the country.
Depending on the school and their processes, rolling admissions might be a factor. For schools with rolling admissions, the college or university evaluates potential students as they receive the applications rather than after a specific deadline.
The College Planning Process
Ultimately, modifying applications to be test-optional or test-blind encourages a much more diverse crowd of students to apply to universities. But, finding the right college and paying for it is still just as difficult as it used to be. College finances are tough. Between financial aid, scholarships, and room and board, going to college can be financially stressful for anyone.
Let us help make college planning easier on you. Here at College Benefits Research Group (CBRG), we offer virtual workshops to help students plan their future and feel confident in their choices. Going to college can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. For more information on our classes, visit us here.