This image, posted by the University of Georgia, shows the emptied college campus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: @universityofga on Instagram

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s easy to see that the 2019-2020 spring semester has not gone as planned. For most juniors, this pandemic is stressful not only because of end-of-year AP Exams and assessments but also because of college applications.

Luckily, many colleges and universities have already made preliminary changes to their application processes for the Class of 2021 to ease this stress. Some of these changes are just a step in the direction that some colleges have already taken but were catalyzed by the outbreak of COVID-19.

For starters, many schools have become test-optional for next year’s pool of applicants. Test-optional means that students are not required to submit SAT and ACT scores with their applications. Schools such as Tulane University, Williams College, Colgate University and many others have already announced that they will go test-optional for the 2020-2021 school year.

Some schools have taken this even further; Tufts University made the announcement that they will become test-optional for the next three years as an experiment. Of course, there are several schools, such as Wake Forest University, that have been test-optional for years, and it is possible that the recent changes will increase the number of schools that are permanently test-optional.

However, many higher educational institutions still expect that there will be SAT/ACT testing dates made available to students prior to their admissions deadlines, so students should still make plans to take at least one of the exams. As the U.S. continues to respond to this pandemic, the number of schools that go test-optional for next year may see a sharp increase, especially if June testing dates are canceled.

Another massive change to the college admissions system that will affect the Class of 2021 is the dropping of requirements or strong recommendations that students submit SAT II Subject Tests or AP Exam scores to universities. While only a few schools in the nation continue to require these exams, some of the few schools left have gotten rid of this requirement.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology have both taken this step, which could decrease the importance of SAT II Exams in general. It is also a possibility that public universities in California may drop the SAT/ACT essay requirement, which could possibly lead to its eventual disappearance.

However, testing is not the only thing that has been affected by COVID-19; it’s also only a small portion of the college application process as a whole. Many students across the country use their spring break as a time to tour colleges. Although Pace students were able to travel over spring break, for other students with spring breaks in late March or April, tours were canceled and colleges were closed.

Applying to a school, or even choosing which school you would like to attend, becomes far more difficult when you haven’t set foot on campus. Many schools are offering virtual tours through their admissions websites, and others have virtual tours offered through Scoir, but it is not the same as being there.

It is unclear right now as to what effect these schools’ closures will have on application deadlines and tuition costs. But for now, students should do what they can to learn about individual schools and programs so that they can better understand what they are looking for and where they want to apply when schools and admissions offices reopen.

Top photo: Juniors pause for a photo inside the Keenan Memorial Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill while on the Pace college tour of the Carolinas in February. Photo: Caitlin Jones

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