Tackling college applications during COVID-19

Anne Wang and Sarah Shen

As COVID-19 closes college campuses and cancels SAT tests, there is no doubt that the
outbreak will have a significant impact on college admissions next year. However, rising seniors
can utilize this time to their advantage by focusing on their college essays, conducting extensive
research, and remaining calm since colleges will accommodate for the upcoming college
application year.
While rising seniors may feel anxious about potential cancellation of future testing dates,
universities will certainly recognize this is a universal obstacle for applicants. In fact, the
University of California system and Cornell University have already eliminated the SAT as a
requirement for admission. College Board is also planning to offer at-home testing in the fall.
If students have already taken these tests and done well, however, then they should still
submit their scores as these would only supplement their applications in the long run.
In addition, many colleges are aware that high schools are implementing pass/fail grades,
which they will not hold against students during admission. As colleges will place less emphasis
on the SAT and GPAs this year, we recommend that students focus on their upcoming college

Fortunately, quarantine has freed up a lot more time to prepare for these. This is essential
as college essays require a lot of planning and time to write. This will allow more opportunities
for multiple drafts and edits in order to craft the perfect college essay.
Universities are also offering virtual campus tours and plenty of additional online
opportunities for students to explore their institutions. Of course, this won’t be the same
experience as actually visiting campus to gain the feel of the atmosphere, but students can still do
extensive research through virtual campus tours to add to their supplemental essays.
Besides this, COVID-19 leaves the status of interviews uncertain, but we encourage
rising seniors not to worry over these, as they are a minimal factor of admission. From our
experience pre-coronavirus, as long as the applicant doesn’t blow the interview by not showing
up or making some other drastic mistake, the interview will only boost the application.
In the end, grades and test scores may open the door for admission, but essays and
personality will let people in the door. Have match schools and safety schools, but don’t be
discouraged from applying because of your numbers! Your dream school would prefer you to be
an interesting person with a GPA and SAT that are a little lower than a boring one with perfect
Though this has been the case even before the pandemic, this has become even more
important in the current situation. This may sound cliché, but be yourself on the essay and don’t
be afraid to get weird (within certain bounds)! If they don’t like you…well, not everyone has
good taste.