The College Search
During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By: Joseph Corace | Last Updated: March 27, 2020

CoronavirusMarch and April are typically busy months in the college search for high-school juniors getting started and high school seniors making final decisions. The Coronavirus Pandemic has put a halt to that process from the closing of schools to canceled campus tours and SAT tests. Last night, I joined a panel of experts through a Zoom presentation about their thoughts on how students can navigate the search during this uncertain time.

My notes follow:

Presenters were:

  • zoom meetingJeff Selingo (moderator), Contributing Editor, The Chronicle of Higher Education, author of College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education
  • Rick Clark, Director of Undergraduate Admission, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Diane Campbell, Counselor at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colorado

Connie Betterton, VP at College Board

Rick Clark:

  • Perhaps the only good thing about the pandemic is that you’ll find college staff members are very available when you call or email!
  • With colleges closed to visitors, here are some ways – other than online college search engines − to dig deeper into the true student culture of a campus:
    • Social media sites − not a college’s official ones, but those posted by students and student organizations (e.g., check out the rugby club’s Instagram)
    • Student newspapers, which you can find online
    • Alumni newsletters, which you can find online


  • College Board is working on alternate test dates for the summer and fall, hopefully 1-to-1 replacement dates, and is hopeful that the June SAT can still be administered
  • In the first half of April, College Board expects to know if the June test will be given or not

What will AP exams be like?question mark

  • Students will read and analyze primary sources or do complex math questions and show all their work
  • College Board working on ways to ensure against cheating.
  • More details to be released in early April
  • GA Tech says it’s highly likely to give the same credit for the same score as always, but may advise students to not necessarily accept the credit if they didn’t actually finish the course
  • Students can still register for an AP exam! (I hope I heard this correctly; ask your school’s AP Coordinator)

Financial aid:

  • Call colleges if your family’s financial circumstances have changed as a result of the pandemic, but wait until you get their financial aid award letters

GA Tech’s take on what will change in admissions next year:

  • I think you’re going to see a lot of grace, a lot of flexibility, a lot of understanding
  • Applications are reviewed by real people who are going through this same turmoil now and will be sensitive to the disruptions you’ve experienced
  • All students are in the same position, and some students won’t even have grades for 2nd semester or 4th quarter, but GA Tech, and likely other colleges, will assume that the grades a student would have earned during the pandemic would be similar to what they previously earned in those courses
  • Will closely look at all the grades a student had before the pandemic
  • This may push admissions to be more holistic

Will there be a new question on Common App asking how Covid-19 affected you?Common Application

  • No one knows

Will students write their essays about Covid-19?

  • Most likely – and admission officers will need to be trained about how to read these essays and not say, oh, no, another Coronavirus essay!

Final words:

  • Colleges need students and you can rest assured that they’ll find ways to enroll students!
  • The virus will force colleges to really up their game in terms of providing more virtual programming in the coming monthsgroup of people
  • Waitlists will probably be much larger this year, and there will be more “churn” in them, and far deeper into the summer than before because of expected “summer melt” and the inability right now to issue visas – Rick Clark called the waitlist “the 8th level of admissions purgatory,” but said that a waitlist really about colleges protecting themselves (ensuring that they meet their enrollment targets)
  • Not sure what schools will do with ED and EA deadlines for next year.

Topics: News College Admission College Planning Educational Consulting SAT


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