Forbes : 2020-11-30



Guide to College Admissions During the Pandemic Forbes’ 141 HOW DO YOU put together a strong applicatio­n when it’s nearly impossible to take an admissions test, your school switched to pass/fail grades in the crucial spring term of your junior year and your extracurri­culars and summer job all got canceled because of the pandemic? THE GOOD NEWS: College admissions officers feel your pain. To help students navigate the rocky terrain, talked to enrollment experts and top admissions personnel at a dozen selective institutio­ns. Forbes other informatio­n about the second half of junior year, “the thing that’s going to matter most is storytelli­ng.” • If you haven’t taken an admissions test, don’t. Stu Schmill, MIT’s admissions dean, does not expect students to submit scores. “The most important thing students can do is safeguard their health and the health of the people around them,” he says. “We’re going to look at other parts of their applicatio­n.” Go to for a list of test-optional and test-blind schools. Cross-check that with the admissions informatio­n page at the school of your choice. West Point recently announced applicants can substitute a PSAT for an SAT or ACT. • Show what you did during lockdown. Some students are volunteeri­ng as poll workers during the election. Others are tutoring elementary schoolers online. If your school shut down extracurri­culars and you lost your summer job, write about what you did instead, either in your personal essay or in the “additional informatio­n” section on the Common App. • Don’t worry about your grades. had Colleges know you no control over your school’s plans during lockdown. If you had to take your courses pass/fail, don’t sweat it. • Take a virtual tour. Most schools aren’t offering inperson tours, but almost all colleges have virtual tours, many with realtime question-and-answer sessions. Tulane, for example, tracks students’ visits to its online tours. This year, for the first time, Tulane applicants can interview remotely. • Apply early, but check deadlines. Admissions odds are generally better for those who apply for early decision or early action, but Covid-19— which has affected student visas and travel—magnifies enrollment uncertaint­y. According to admissions veterans, selective colleges below the top tier are likely to accept more students early in an effort to lock in a first-year class. Without the benefit of campus visits, committing early can be daunting. But thanks to a 2019 Department of Justice ruling, you no longer have to withdraw your other applicatio­ns if you’re admitted early. Also, pay attention to deadline changes. Some colleges will consider making allowances for students affected by hardships like fires and floods who ask for extensions. “Timelines have changed this year,” says Brown University’s Logan Powell. Princeton has suspended its early action program because of the pandemic. • Tell your story, but share your Covid-19 experience only if it’s significan­t. This year the Common Applicatio­n, the digital form that most schools accept, has an optional question that gives students 250 words to describe their pandemic experience­s. Use it if you have a serious story to tell. “If your parents lost their jobs or you lost a loved one, write about it,” says Jeffrey Selingo, author of Spend time writing a compelling essay, says Angel B. Pérez, head of the National Associa- Who Gets In and Why. tion for College Admission Counseling. In the absence of test scores and —S.A. NOVEMBER 2020 FORBES.COM