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The Class of 2021 Will Make History with a New College Admissions Process Due to COVID-19

Every single day another college announces changes to its admissions process for the Class of 2021. There is a clear shift going on in the world of college admissions. Dare I say, colleges are finally showing signs of a pro-student approach.

The Class of 2021 will be a historic group of students as more colleges are being forced to adjust their standards and strategies. We will look back on this current group of juniors as the class that changed the admissions process for one year—or possibly for a generation.

Here are five ways the game has changed for the Class of 2021:

1. Dozens of colleges have already announced that they are waiving the SAT and ACT for the Class of 2021.

I anticipate many more colleges will do the same in the coming weeks and months. This means that if a student doesn't get a chance to take the SAT or ACT due to testing cancellations or they are not happy with the scores they received, they do not have to send them. Students will not be disadvantaged if they decide to withhold their scores. That said, a student who chooses not to send test scores will be more competitive if they have a very strong transcript.

2. The importance of Subject Tests, AP scores, and IB scores is waning.

MIT announced a few weeks ago that it would no longer be using Subject Tests in its admissions process. In fact, students are not even permitted to send them to MIT. Yale University announced this week that Subject Tests are not necessary for the coming year, and neither are AP and IB scores. If a student has a lot on their plate, Subject Tests and AP exams should take a backseat to other priorities. 

3. Some colleges are offering virtual opportunities from information sessions to Zoom "chats" with admissions officers.

Why? Because colleges don't want interest to wane and their applicant pools to shrink due to COVID-19. Tulane just launched marketing efforts to juniors to encourage them to sign up for an online "chat" with their admissions officers. For colleges that factor demonstrated interest into the admissions process like Tulane, these online touchpoints will most likely count for students. In this new era of college admissions, online participation in recruitment events will replace in-person visits, at least for the time being.

4. The students with creativity and ingenuity will be the big winners this summer.

If traditional summer jobs and other opportunities look uncertain, students who can do something on their own or virtually with an organization or company will have something to show for Summer 2020. The artists can create artwork they never imagined they would have time to make. The writers could write more than ever. The researchers in every single discipline could spend endless amounts of time uncovering something novel. The computer programmer could build an app from scratch. The possibilities are endless. Creators, innovators, inventors, and pioneers will always be valued in the admissions process, but now they will be valued more than ever.

RELATED READING: Hey Admissions Deans, Now Is the Time to Put Students First

5. Grades (or a lack thereof) for the end of the school year will be viewed with an asterisk.

Whether a student's high school uses grades or adopts a pass/fail option, colleges will be well aware that the circumstances were far from ideal. If a student soars during this period of time, it will be worth mentioning. The student's college counselor can provide more detail in the letter of recommendation. But most students' transcripts will look like the world stopped in the Spring of 2020, and it certainly feels like that to most of us right now.
But don't let it. Continue to study, contribute, and engage. The students who keep going will see opportunities where others don't. No matter what, the Class of 2021 has my support. They will make history and will serve as a model for how younger generations react to adversity. My vote is cast. The Class of 2021 are the real game changers and colleges will be lucky if they get them to apply and ultimately enroll.