Will Fall 2021 intake be tougher?

Yes and No. Like answers to all good questions, there isn’t one definitive, accurate response to this concise yet complex question. The criteria used by admissions deans of various colleges to judge the overall profile of an individual is being calibrated and restructured owing to the complexities of the current pandemic ridden world.

More than 300 Admissions Deans from various colleges recently put out a joint press statement (Walsh, 2020) to address changes in the application review process, acknowledge the drastic changes that are occurring in the college admissions’ landscape and to ease the anxiety of students who are looking to start college in the 2021 academic year. The Fall-2021 intake will surely be tougher if you do not adapt to the followingcrucial changes:
New perspective on academic achievements: A student’s scholastic accomplishments will be assessed by admissions counselors after taking into consideration any obstacles or hardships that the student may have faced because of the coronavirus’ global outbreakand any other external factors that directly hampered the student’s ability to perform in exams; more emphasis will be placed on a student’s academic achievements before and after the pandemic. However, this is not to say that one needs to be lax about performing well in exams during the ongoing crisis; one should actively strive to use this relaxed criteria to their benefit by performing exceptionally well academically during a time when colleges are conditionally decreasing their emphasis on outstanding standardized testing scores.

Daniel (2020, May 28) has compiled a list of universities that are completely dropping the SAT and ACT requirements for the 2021 intake (Some have dropped it for the 2022 intake as well). There are also some universities that are providing their prospective students the option to submit different credentials (like high school GPA) in the place of SAT and ACT scores. Surprisingly, there are a handful of colleges that are actually test-blind which means that these colleges do not weigh in any sort of test scores into their decision-making process.

Renewed emphasis on service and contribution to one’s community is now more important than ever. The global pandemic has created a new array of needs ranging from food delivery services to senior citizens who cannot leave home to tutoring students whose access to school and learning infrastructure has suffered or completely cut off. We live in a world where there is a constant need for sustainable and economically feasible solutions. Given the disruption in testing and scoring systems, colleges will now be placing more prominence on an applicant’s drive and devotion to give back not only to their family, but also their community at large. Every crisis can be an opportunity if one is well intentioned and informed.

This is not to say that admissions counselors will only care services and contributions that are related to the ongoing pandemic; colleges, like before, will still consider any and all forms of services and contributions that have a truly positive effect on one’s community; this includes working to conserve the environment, participating in voter registration drives, tutoring students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, volunteering in non-governmental organizations and so on.

Extracurricular activities: Admissions counselors fully understand that an applicant’s potential summer internships, co-ops, jobs, camp activities, club meetings and other such extracurricular activities may have either been cancelled or altered drastically owing to the current pandemic; which is why good communication is key for applicants since they will have to elucidate and expand upon their circumstances and lost opportunities.

Both the common and college-specific applications will give a chance for students to explain exactly how the pandemic affected their ability to perform certain tasks or take part in certain activities and all of this information will be considered and analyzed in complete confidentiality. It would be very helpful if an applicant can give detailed information like the number of hours per week that one had to expend to take care of a sick relative or the lack of access to specific learning resources, infrastructure or a quiet place to study in owing to the complete shutdown of schools in certain regions; all such detailed case specific information will assist the admissions counselors to fully understand the applicant’s circumstances and make decisions accordingly.

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