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

Dear Admissions Deans and College Presidents,

I hope you and your families are healthy and well during this difficult time. COVID-19 has surely tested all of us. No one is spared from this pandemic. Even if we haven't tested positive, we are worried about what is to come.
As parents, we know how serious this situation is, but our children worry more than they let on. Amidst this uncertainty, our kids are concerned about how their end-of-year grades will be viewed by all of you, how on earth they are supposed to take the SAT or ACT if tests continue to be canceled, and why "demonstrated interest" really matters in a time like this.

I urge you to step out in front of these concerns and address them head on.
It is my hope that you will follow the path laid out by some of your colleagues at other institutions who have already made public statements announcing student-friendly and student-focused admissions policies for the Class of 2021 and beyond.
If you haven't seen these policies, here are some suggestions of what to do next:

1. Stop dragging your feet and make a statement already.

Students, parents, and college counselors are calling your offices and visiting your admissions websites every single day for guidance about how grades will be viewed, standardized testing, deadlines, and even demonstrated interest. We are waiting for your answers.

2. Tell students that their health and well-being matter more than their grades right now.

Some students don't even have access to the Internet to participate in online learning; other students are taking care of younger siblings while their parents are on the frontlines of this pandemic. And even those students with technological resources and parents who are home to help them are struggling with anxiety and other psychological effects of what is going on in the world right now.

3. If a high school offers students the chance to take classes "pass/fail" rather than for a grade, tell them that's okay too. 

Being flexible at a time like this is the right thing to do. But families need to hear it straight from you.

4. Waive the testing requirement of the SAT or ACT or adopt a test optional policy.

If a student has a great score already, they can send it in. But for many students, they got shut out of taking the March SAT or the April ACT for their first official standardized test. 
5. Eliminate the ridiculous self-serving strategy of demonstrated interest from your admissions process.
You and I both know the amount of money hardworking families spend just to visit your campus in a normal year because they know their child will be disadvantaged if they don't. Now that we are all homebound, this gives you a chance to look in the mirror and do the right thing. No student should be judged for not visiting your campus or even participating in a virtual information session. Leave this practice out of your admissions consideration from here on in.  
I don't mince my words when it comes to advocating for students and putting them first. You shouldn't either. Get on top of these issues now before families lose trust in you forever.


Sara Harberson

Former Admissions Dean and Current Student Advocate

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