There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic has rocked the foundation of our lives. While many people lament how not-normal life in the US has become, it will be a long time before we can expect to see a return to the familiar. College students and professors are especially aware of the shift that’s occurred in higher education.  

Even as many states choose to reopen their doors and urge students to return to school, new daily cases of Coronavirus have more than doubled since the first shutdowns in April and March of this year. This has left students and staff scratching their heads for a way to handle the college admissions process.  

The Student Dilemma 

Even the most passionate learners and ambitious students are seriously considering putting their educations on hold. International students are on especially unstable ground – if they attend a college in the US that shuts down later in the year, where will they go? Local students are also trying to find a balance between the inaccessibility of remote learning and the increased safety it provides.  

All these factors (and more) have led to record lows in applications. Many students are also declining offers to attend their top picks, instead choosing to continue their education when they feel it is safer to do so. This has opened up the doors for those hopeful individuals who have been placed on waiting lists, according to the NY Times. After all, colleges need students to attend in order to keep functioning. This is good news for those who might otherwise be passed over for attending their top choices. However, they too face the dilemma of whether to return to campus.  

Maintaining College Attendance 

With so many students postponing their education – or dropping out of college entirely – campuses and their staff members are forced to deal with complicated budget issues. Some colleges are considering exclusively online learning, while others are weighing the advantages of a mixed-learning environment. However, making a shift in any direction will increase the overall budget required.  

Add in the decline of student applications and admissions, and many campuses find themselves floundering. Maintaining college grounds, ensuring sanitation, or allowing students to reside in the dorms has become infinitely more complicated if only a small portion of the student body returns in fall term.  

Lacking Information on Potential Students 

Independent of the ethical and financial issues posed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the college admissions process has to adapt as well. Because so many high schools closed during Spring of 2020, very few incoming freshmen have test scores to present to their college of choice. SAT and ACT scores have long set the minimum bar for enrollment at a majority of colleges in the US. Without this tool, admissions counselors are having to find new ways to measure student success and potential.  

This is further impacted by the lack of extracurriculars during the last term. Participation in sports teams, volunteer activities, and music clubs were put on hold throughout the country. Not only are there no test scores to differentiate students, but there are no extracurricular activities that allow applicants to show distinguished skills.  

Lastly, as schools have shifted to e-learning, the grading system offered by most high schools has changed. Instead of grading on an A through F system, many courses have become Pass/Fail classes. College admissions staff now has to disregard overall GPAs as an indicator of student success, too.  

According to an article by NPR, many college admissions officers are attempting to focus on the character of individual applicants, as opposed to their academic performance. Although this has been a growing trend in recent years, many staff members are still trying to figure out a suitable way to evaluate potential students.  

Limited Student Exploration 

The final challenge that the Coronavirus pandemic poses to college admissions: limited student exploration. It’s considered essential for applicants to tour colleges, engage in mentor sessions, and meet with admissions officers. However, that opportunity has been eliminated. Now, students who are interested may take virtual tours of the campus or complete a video chat with the admissions office – but many applicants don’t feel that it’s enough to base their decision on.  

Will College Admissions Change for Good? 

The pandemic has many college admissions staff wondering whether the admittance process will ever go back to “normal”. Even if students are able to tour and physically attend campuses in the future, faculty members will have to reconcile the old and new processes. Will more wait-listed students be admitted? Will admissions focus less on test scores and more on character? Only time will tell.  

About the Author 

This article on the impact of Coronavirus on college admissions was written by Eve Maygar. Eve is an expert in higher education. She works for PapersOwl as a blogger and contributor. Additionally, Eve has been published in several notable academic journals. When she’s not busy writing articles, she continues to further her education on college and university life in the US.