Since I last wrote about coronavirus and college applications, a lot has changed. Here is the newest information and some suggestions about what you can do now, even while the landscape is shifting.

  • In-person SATs and ACTs are cancelled, at least until June. An online version will allegedly be available relatively soon. However, the online version will require an extra payment for online proctoring, won’t be widely available and is also raising some privacy concerns. Additionally, there are questions about whether or not students with accommodations will be able to take the online version.


  • However, colleges are increasingly waiving standardized testing requirements. The list of schools that are test optional is growing daily and includes a wide variety of programs. Tufts, Haverford, Williams, Amherst, Pomona, Boston University, the University of California Schools and more – this list is updated every few days, and can help you keep track.


  • AP exams are happening online this year. They will be 45 minutes long, instead of 2+ hours, and the format has therefore obviously changed. See the College Board site for more information. There is concern that colleges might not accept these scores for credit, given the altered format.


  • Subject tests are even less important. Seriously, MIT won’t even consider them – applicants aren’t allowed to submit them, for equity. Subject tests aren’t required virtually anywhere at this point, and I expect even more schools to follow MIT’s lead.


  • Pass/Fail grades are the norm. Most high schools have switched to pass/fail grading for the remainder of the year. Please don’t worry if this is the case at your school – colleges understand that the situation is out of your control and won’t penalize you for it.


  • This summer is likely to look different from years past – camps, jobs, summer programs, etc are all impacted. Think strategically about how to re-shape the time, and please remember that schools won’t expect you to use the summer in any particular way.


  • Applications are projected to be up next year. This is because many current seniors are hesitant to enroll at the moment. Finances are a concern, and people don’t want to start freshman year online. Some estimates show that a third of the graduating class is planning to ask for a deferral, or to take a gap year. Many of these students will then be applying in the fall, along with the class of 2021.


  • Early decision dates might change. There are rumors that early decision and early action programs might be eliminated, or that the dates might shift from October/November to December.


  • Juniors – consider writing your common application essay and asking for recommendations. For those of you who are able to do so, this might be the perfect time to write your core application essay, and to ask for your letters of recommendation.


  • Sophomores and freshmen – start investigating schools, taking virtual tours through YouVisit and the school’s websites. Admissions offices are posting great interactive content, making it easier to conduct searches remotely.



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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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