College admissions during COVID-19 become more complicated


Kaitlyn Booy

Few people stand on an empty UIUC quad in April 2020.

College applications can be very stressful for those applying to colleges with impending deadlines and complicated submission procedures. However, with a global pandemic thrown into the mix, both students and colleges are navigating through the admissions process in ways never seen before. 

One of the biggest changes to college applications this year is the optional submission of standardized test scores. Since access to standardized tests has been limited, hundreds of colleges across the U.S. have opted for test-optional application policies this year. 

A tab under the admissions portal for the University of Iowa explains that they understand how COVID-19 has caused limited access to ACT and SAT tests. For them, academic disruptions that students have experienced will not hurt their chances of being accepted- this includes not submitting a test score. 

In lieu of submitting test scores, some colleges expect students to submit more academic documents such as personal essays or teacher-graded essays from literature classes. 

Emma Barszcz (12) explained how test-optional policies were beneficial in her admissions process.

“Personally, I am not a good standardized test taker,” Barszcz said. “Schools have given the option to write an essay instead, and I feel that I can show them why I deserve to go to school there better than my ACT score would.”

Optional standardized test scores are not the only thing that is different about this year’s application process. In-person college tours have been replaced with virtual ones at many colleges for safety and because means of travel have also been restricted.

Evelyn Leary (12) commented on her experiences with virtual tours. 

“They’re definitely quicker, which can be good and bad. They aren’t quite as helpful as in-person tours because I think there’s an aspect of getting a feeling on campus that you can’t get when it’s on a computer,” Leary said. 

Virtual campus tours can usually be found on many universities’ websites.

Some students are still visiting schools to get a feel for the campus without an official tour.

Emmy Woodrow (12) explained how her college tours have changed because of the pandemic. 

“Due to COVID, all of my college trips were postponed until senior year. Even though most colleges are not offering official tours at this time, many of these schools are offering self-guided tours which is what I have been going off of,” Woodrow said.

Campuses are a lot emptier than usual due to universities having a mix of both online and in-person classes. This is helpful to practice social distancing, but it does take away the “college feel” most students describe when visiting a university.

With all of the changes to the application and decision processes, the stress of applications weighs down on students’ shoulders, but regardless, some still find ways to remain excited for college.