What is the effect of Covid-19 on the class of 2021 and after?


Trisha Khattar

There may be major changes to the college application process for the class of 2021 and beyond.

Trisha Khattar, Staff Writer

As the COVID-19 crisis continues and circumstances seem to change by the minute, juniors are growing increasingly uncertain of their future in college and the workplace.

With the pandemic and lockdown severely impacting testing dates, extracurricular activities, grading systems, and financial situations, it’s logical that many are concerned about admissions and how their individual applications will suffer. 

The 2021 college admissions process is changing substantially, with schools across the country declaring themselves “test optional” for the incoming applicants, which eases the process for those who were planning to take the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests in the spring. 

“I think that a lot of people will consider applying to the schools that have chosen not to consider standardized testing scores in their application. Since a lot of us haven’t yet had the chance to take or retake the SAT/ACT, it’s a relief that some schools won’t require them,” says Macey Fisher (‘21)

But if the SAT and ACT are not required for a college application, and second semester grades for junior year will not hold as much weight as usual, what are colleges going to focus more on? 

Ex-college admissions counselor Wil Del Pilar suggests that there will most likely be a larger focus on students’ GPA and grades, keeping in mind, obviously, the interruption in learning when schools were dismissed across the county for the spring semester.

 It would also make sense for colleges to regard extracurricular activities with more weight, which might disadvantage students from lower income families unable to keep these activities going during the quarantine. 

“The residential programs that I applied to as well as some of my extracurricular classes have been cancelled. This is happening to students around the country, which will make everyone’s resume look drastically different than the previous year’s applications,” said Srihita Ramini (‘21)

But not only will applications themselves look different, so will student’s college lists and plans for the year after high school. Experts predict that students will be more likely to apply to schools closer to home and might even choose to skip a year before going to college.

“Personally, I want to go to school in Washington State or Colorado, but with the events of the Coronavirus, I’ve been looking into other schools,” said Nikolas Michail (‘21). 

“There’ll be a lot more students deferring college to take a gap year. And anecdotally, I know a lot of students who are reconsidering their choices and are more reluctant to go out of state for school and are thinking about staying closer to home,” said Jeremy Alder, founder and managing editor of College Consensus, to CNBC. 

Because of the economic implications that COVID-19 has brought, families may end up appealing for financial aid and choose to prioritize applying to colleges that fit their needs more. 

“I think that students will start to be more careful of applying to colleges that are farther away from home. In addition, students will also have to place a greater emphasis on scholarships and financial aid because of the dire economic situation,” said Ramini. 

Even now, as certain colleges announce that their fall 2020 semester will be held virtually, college-going seniors are forced to debate whether the high tuition of most colleges is worth simply online classes. 

Some have speculated that because of travel restrictions and immobility, US colleges expect a significantly lower amount of international applications, which may ease the acceptance rate for in-country students slightly. 

In the end, COVID-19 is projected to impact college admissions not just in 2021, but act as the catalyst to spur the kind of change that people, for years, have been advocating for, most notably, a shift to test-optional policies, not just for this coming year, but the years after as well. 

It’s important to remember, that as much as juniors may worry for their applications in the coming year with cancelations and possibly changes in grades, this pandemic is affecting students across the nation.

Colleges will view applications in context of the situation for everyone and keep in mind that situations vary for students in every state. 

For a sample list of colleges that have gone test-optional for 2021: click here. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, so keep looking for updates in your email and on colleges’ websites for their official policy.