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State of College Admissions

For many parents of high school students, the college application process can be a daunting task, full of questions. The onset of COVID-19 only adds to the anxiety. Does ‘test optional’ really mean optional? How does pass/fail grades affect my admission perception? My internship was canceled; what can I do now? It is more important than ever to know where to go to find answers for college planning.

Current Status of College Admissions

COVID-19 has also impacted colleges and the ways they recruit and admit upcoming classes. Many colleges are looking at their fall enrollment numbers and altering admissions processes by changing decision dates, moving on to wait-listed students, and in some cases even accepting new applications. As many students choose to stay closer to home, the flagship schools in each state expect record numbers of in-state applicants. Remember that colleges want to ensure they have a strong incoming class each fall. They have all yields and an incoming class to fill. Right now, there are also a lot of unknowns too. Will school start this fall? What about sports? Until colleges fill their incoming class, most all decisions for the public will be on hold. Many colleges have already expressed that classes will start in a hybrid form and/or later than traditionally planned.

SAT & ACT Test Planning

One of the most asked questions we hear is, “Are test optional colleges REALLY optional?” In a word, ‘NO!’, this is especially true if you will be applying for merit aid or scholarships. Reported test scores get published in boasts & brag collateral, surveys, marketing handouts plus so much more. They’re also mentioned on campus tours. The most competitive colleges often highlight their incoming class with reference to their standardized test scores frequently. These scores can be a point of pride for many programs to attract even more competitive prospective students. Families should keep in mind that many colleges do require test scores on record to receive scholarships for this reason. Check with your prospective college on testing policies and requirements for merit aid.

Holistic Review Tips

Many colleges will be reviewing students holistically now. They will be learning about a student through their past activities, class selection & performance, strength of their essay and resume plus interview. The portfolio submission should be polished and submitted by early action deadlines.

Pass or Fail 101

Dale Price on Good Day Austin

Transcripts will vary from school-to-school. Now is a good time to better understand exactly what will be reported for your student, most importantly: How. Some schools will post first semester grades while others leave that term off the transcript. If your high school has moved to a pass/fail for spring 2020, don’t panic! There are other ways to show proficiency and excellence, one being letters of recommendation by core teachers. Encourage a recommender to indicate the letter grade you would have received in that subject on their recommendation. Colleges will take into account your past performance, class choices and even any online classes this summer as curiosity indicators.


Think outside the box. Be creative. Take the lead on learning. For example, one of our scholars had an interior design internship for this summer, it’s now canceled. He decided to create a project at home that would show his proficiency in this area. The end-result will be a resigned bedroom, complete with a portfolio containing documentation, specs, photographs and a letter from a mentor to accompany.

Remember that every admissions officer is a real person. We are all living through this pandemic together! They will be understanding as they evaluate your transcript, resume and portfolio to better glean your student’s ability to succeed in their college’s undergraduate programs.

What Should I Be Doing Now?

Take virtual college tours, meet & greet with admissions on ZOOM. College admissions officers want to visit with you and your family. Be proactive and reach out to them. Visit college websites, social media outlets, and get on mailing lists for colleges of interest. One helpful search engine is

Create your resume and vitae by preparing a folder or 3-ring binder to track every academic and community service activity that you are involved in. Keep track of every virtual webinar, online course or community service activity, and independent study activities. Why? You will need this information to verify involvement and to write about these opportunities. These suggestions cumulative in you learning how to tell your story. The college admissions process may look different due to COVID-19, but the bottom line is the same and culminates in you telling your story through your transcript, your resume, your portfolio and each short answer and essay on the college application.

Ask for Help

Access College America is a National Provider for Guidance with College Planning. We have always worked with our families virtually to help students with the right college fit. Our advantage is a holistic approach to helping your student determine their strengths, weaknesses, and interests right from the time they begin high school. Learn more about our college planning services. Prepare. Apply. Achieve.


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