College Admissions During COVID-19

How the coronavirus pandemic has affected the college application process for students worldwide.


Dani Pendergast for NPR

Coronavirus and inbound college students.

Milan Davis-Wiseman, Contributor

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has intensified college application anxiety and procedures. Admissions dean, Whitney Soule of Bowdoin College, said in a recent interview, “I haven’t had the time to answer emails and questions from parents. Instead, I’m also responding to media inquiries about how my school plans to manage our selection processes in this crisis.” The disruption of the virus has aroused concern for many college applicants who feel a lack of communication from the institution’s staff for serious inquiries regarding their application or other important factors.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, standardized entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT have been canceled altogether or pushed back. Many college institutions have become test-optional. The University of California system is taking a step further and becoming completely test-blind, meaning they will not review SAT or ACT scores even if students do submit them. Although these tests have, in fact, been proven to be racially biased and discriminatory towards people of color, low-income families, and those with disabilities, many students have become worried. Considering the competitiveness of colleges and universities today, the SAT and ACT are opportunities for students to stand out academically and become greater competition, and without it, many are dependent on sports or extracurriculars. 

Many students that primarily depend on sports, performing arts, and/or community service for the outcome of their application are also facing serious conflict. Depending on the circumstances, some students will lack extracurriculars because they were interrupted by quarantine.

I spoke with several seniors, who preferred not to have their names listed, and asked how they have been coping during the most stressful time of their high school careers and what aspect of the application process COVID-19 made more difficult. Many said they often took walks or gave themselves rewards after completing each application. While the remaining seniors said they simply cried. Nearly every senior listed their biggest concern as colleges and universities doing away with SAT’s and ACT’s. 

Bishop O’Dowd senior Samuel Daba expressed how difficult it was to decide on a college when nearly all colleges are limiting tours to virtual visits. Anonymous ‘21 wrote, “While I’ve been completely discouraged during this pandemic, I kind of see college in a more practical light and shifted my focus towards the search instead of getting caught up in the brand of big institutions.” 

For more information on how the coronavirus is heavily affecting college applications, what to expect, and how to prepare, visit