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Last Updated On: May 17th, 2020

COVID-19 has thrown a lot into question, including the college admissions process. As the news changes every day, so are the tough decisions colleges are making about how to consider grades and test scores in a way that is fair to all students.

How will admissions decisions for seniors be affected?

For current seniors, most admissions decisions have already been made, though students are still expected to submit final transcripts and meet all graduation requirements. Most colleges and universities, including the UCs, have announced that they are now counting classes taken during this term as pass/fail, and they will not factor them into GPA. So, if you’ve already gotten into school, all you have to do is pass your classes and you should be in good shape with grades and credits. Most schools are also offering an extension if you have trouble receiving and sending your transcript by the deadline.

How will admissions decisions for juniors be affected?

For current juniors, the situation becomes more complicated, as spring semester SAT and ACT exams have been cancelled. Recently, the UC system announced several changes to their admissions policies for current juniors, including the following:

  • Grades for winter, spring, or summer of 2020 will be counted as pass/fail, which means they won’t be factored into GPA. State schools are also removing their cap on pass/fail classes.
  • Current juniors will not be required to take the SAT or ACT, though they still have the option of submitting scores.
  • Cal States will consider students who are unable to meet all of their A-G course requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Some private colleges and out-of-state schools have announced similar policies, while others are still requiring at least one admissions test. You should check with each individual school for their most updated policy.

Should I still prepare for the SAT or ACT if I’m a junior?

It depends, but probably. There may be fewer admissions requirements for juniors, but competitive schools must still make tough choices among a lot of outstanding applicants. Because an entire semester (or more) of GPA is being thrown out of consideration, the remaining grades will be weighted more strongly. If you have stellar grades and impressive extracurriculars leading up to winter of your junior year and you have your heart set on a UC or Cal State, you might choose to forego an admissions test. If you were hoping to improve from a lower GPA or other weaknesses in your application, however, you now have fewer opportunities to do so. If you’re a strong test-taker (or can get there with good preparation) with a weaker GPA, adding an SAT or ACT score can boost your application. Once you begin taking practice tests at home, use our free proctored videos to help track time and pace yourself: LA Tutors Proctored Videos

In addition, many competitive, non-UC schools are still planning to require the SAT or ACT from current juniors, once test dates reopen in the fall (or move to online testing). If you’re planning to apply to one of these schools, you may have fewer opportunities to retake the test, so good preparation is even more important. Many schools have announced that they are suspending SAT subject test requirements, given limited test dates, so you should give priority to the general admissions test.

What should I do if I’m a freshman or sophomore?

We can assume that, by the time you’re applying to schools, either the COVID-19 health situation will be resolved, or schools and test companies will find ways to adapt. Though your current grades might be pass/fail, you should strive to keep up with the content, as many of your current classes include building blocks for future coursework. As for admission tests, the UCs and other schools have announced that dropping of the SAT/ACT is a temporary policy, not a permanent admissions change. Chances are that by the time you’re ready to apply to school there will either be in-person test dates open again, or the tests will have found a way to follow social distancing protocols. So current freshman and sophomores should assume that they will still be expected to take an admissions test to get into a competitive school.

What about AP tests?

The College Board is switching to a 45-minute online AP exam that students can take from home for 2020. Many schools, including the UCs, will honor the promise of college credit for those who pass. These shorter exams will focus on material covered in the first part of the year, before school disruptions. If you’ve already done the work and you have a good Internet connection, it’s likely worth your time and effort to prepare for and take this shorter test.

What if my family’s financial situation has changed?

Many schools have announced that they will work with students whose families are facing increased financial difficulty. If you are a senior in need of more financial aid, politely request a phone or online meeting with a financial aid officer and be honest about your needs. If they ask you to resubmit or update any aid forms, make sure to do so promptly. Keep in mind that the most expensive schools are often the ones who have the most resources. If you’ve already been admitted that means the school wants you and will likely try to accommodate your needs. Make sure to thank whomever you speak to, regardless of the outcome.

While the current situation is certainly not fair, especially to current seniors, schools and colleges are trying their best to adjust their policies in a way that is as fair as possible.

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