College Admissions and COVID-19: What Now?


Like everything in the world right now, the future of college admissions, move-in days, and SAT testing is uncertain. Because COVID-19 is an ever-evolving disruptor, a helpful thing parents can do at this time is to employ flexible thinking around higher education decisions and plans—and encourage their children to do the same. Flexibility and understanding will be key to adapting and moving forward in the college selection and search process, and Keith Bryner, Director of College Counseling at The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, is sharing some sound advice on how to navigate the college landscape in the coming weeks for parents.

Stay Up-to-Date on Standardized Testing News

Both the College Board and ACT, Inc. have had to cancel testing dates, and future test dates and options for rescheduling them are fluid. For the most up-to-date information about testing dates, availability, and closures, it is best to frequently visit the response websites for both the College Board and ACT, Inc. Given that some standardized testing dates for 2020 have already been canceled, it is possible that more colleges and universities will decide to be “test-optional” for the 2020–2021 enrollment cycle. For information about test optional and test flexible admissions practices, please visit It can also be helpful to reach out directly to your child’s college or guidance counselor to understand implications to standardized testing plans down the road.

Check on Pre-Planned Campus Visits and Activities 

If your child has planned for a summer experience like a residential camp, pre-college program, academic camp, travel, or any number of other opportunities, it is important to reach out to those programs so you can understand their current status, refund options, and rescheduling plans.   

Explore Virtual Experiences

In the vast majority of cases, colleges and universities have decided to end on-campus programming for prospective students for the foreseeable future. Instead of on-campus activities, almost every higher education institution has begun to implement new online and virtual experiences to help prospective students become better acclimated to and knowledgeable about institutions. 

Connect with College Admission Officers

Admission officers have been generous with their offers to connect personally with prospective students, so encourage your child to take advantage of this one-on-one interface if your family has questions or concerns about cost, enrollment, etc. Many institutions across the nation are concerned about admitted students being able to access sound counsel with regards to their college decisions given school closures. As such, some colleges and universities have decided to move their deposit deadlines back to June 1. While there is no official nationwide tally of these institutions, the National Association for College Admission Counseling is maintaining a running list of institutions who have adjusted their practices. Ultimately, however, families should defer to individual institutions for updates about their deposit deadline with the foreknowledge that they could make a change to that deadline in the near future. 

Consider Financial Aid Implications

In these uncertain times, if your household has concerns about finances as it relates to the cost of higher education going forward, please plan to reach out directly to those institutions that you are most interested in. They stand ready to assist in both answering questions and making adjustments to their financial aid practices when appropriate.

Remember, Your Child is Not Alone

Many higher education institutions have already signaled to prospective students that they expect to be both flexible and understanding with regards to their admissions practice in 2020–2021, particularly as it relates to pass/fail grades, standardized testing (or the lack thereof), and gaps in participation in traditional activities. For these reasons, all parents and their children should do their best to relax and recognize that almost every student across the nation is experiencing the same perceived deficits; sound admission practice will neither advantage nor disadvantage your child based on these unique realities we are all facing.


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