5 Key Changes for US Admissions in 2021 with COVID-19

By Emilio Giuliani

(Admissions Consultant of The Edge Learning Center)

Beyond finding hand sanitizer more frequently in Admission Offices, the global COVID-19 pandemic may have lasting repercussions on how American AdComms handle the admissions process and applicant materials looking forward. While students for the Fall 2020 undergraduate intake are handling canceled exams and extracurriculars, it is worth anticipating other key changes and preparing accordingly for students seeking to matriculate during the 2021-2022 academic year.

Through my own experience in Admissions and my recent research, here are five key changes that are worth recognizing when considering your application process ahead.


1. Shift Away From Standardized Tests

Even before COVID-19, over the past five years many universities have been shifting away from requiring standardized testing, with the University of Chicago and George Washington University leading top schools in this trend. For the high school class of 2021, Boston University and all campuses in the University of California (UC-Berkeley, UCLA and more) have already suspended their testing requirements, though they are still able to be submitted if available. More universities may be following suit in this direction.

Scoring well on standardized tests will still be a tremendous asset to an applicant, though new avenues are going to be more seriously considered.

University of Chicago campus

The University of Chicago is the highest ranked US university that is test optional


2. Greater Emphasis on Other Accomplishments

At the high school level, a growing number of American districts and schools have similarly been “opting-out” of standardized tests. What is replacing the SAT and ACT in US Schools? According to Bloomberg, there has been an increased focus on performance based learning, such as research proposals, writing theses, or real world projects.

AdComms will likely look favorably on students who can shine in performance based opportunities. Accomplishments in project competitions or extracurriculars will stand out even more prominently in the upcoming year.


3. Lower Rate of Applicants


Given the uncertainty and challenges of COVID-19, many students are reconsidering their timeline for their undergraduate studies altogether. There has been a spike in students planning to take a gap year according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, and hesitant international students may be dissuaded from studying abroad entirely. 

The positive? Those interested in applying for US schools, especially from abroad, may have a better chance than ever of an acceptance at their dream school due to the expected drop in competition from international peers.


4. Increased Flexibility

With test cancellations and schools shifting from letter grades to Pass/Fail in many instances, US universities have recognized adjusting appropriately is necessary to ensure strong freshman classes. The University of North Carolina system and others have mandated more tools and flexibility in conducting admissions altogether, notably lowering the required GPA for students interested in applying.

This should allow greater opportunity for students with lower GPAs to consider top tier institutions, and those with higher GPAs to enjoy a competitive advantage.


5. Travel Developments


Travel restrictions are a widespread challenge of the pandemic, but the US Government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program has been implementing flexible adjustments for international students and continues to closely monitor the situation. Though still developing, this hints at further accommodations universities will be managing to support international students in the months ahead.

It’s too early to predict what the travel environment for students will look like over a year from now, though rest assured the situation is not being ignored by American universities.

Need more advice? Contact us for an Initial Meeting!

About The Edge

The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which students gained acceptance to schools such as Columbia, Yale, UChicago, UPenn, Oxford, and more! Check out our latest Admissions Results!

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