Founder & College Consultant
Access Success LLC
Admission counselors may not be able to rely on the same old criteria when it comes to vetting college applicants this year and next as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, the hard factors in the admission process were academic rigor in transcripts, grades, and standardized test scores, but these may have been compromised due to the coronavirus. For example, straight-A students may be struggling with the move to remote learning, which could result in uncharacteristically low grades. But admission counselors understand this. The same is true with respect to standardized test scores, as there are now over 1,000 schools that are test-optional.
While soft factors in the process have always been considered, they’re now receiving more attention. For this reason, students should pay particular attention to their Common Application essays, of which there are three: the personal statement, the additional information essay, and the COVID-19 prompt. While some of these essays are optional, every student should provide responses to them. The more you can tell an admission officer about yourself, the better off you'll be, especially this year and next—hence, the importance of dedicating a good amount of time, thought, and energy into crafting appropriate and unique responses to each Common App or specific college's supplemental essay questions.
In addition, college admission counselors will be paying more attention to letters of recommendation. This is especially true since students may not have been able to participate in sports, theater, clubs, jobs, community service, and other in-person activities during the pandemic. Admission counselors will give more weight to what those who know you have to say about you. The circumstances we’re living in today may make it more difficult to set yourself apart in the admission process, but finding creative ways to be engaged both in and out of the classroom will be all the more important these next couple of years.