External Testing, College Admissions, College Tours: What to Expect in the Time of COVID-19

I have some thoughts on the virus and Higher Education, and these are thoughts.

I have some thoughts on the virus and Higher Education, and these are thoughts. What is it we have control over and what we don’t have control over… 

Where We Don’t have Answers: Guessing Game

Standardized Test/External Testing

People are thinking about this virus and how it will affect college admissions. There are a number of questions indeed. Students are stressing about their standardized tests, external testing with International Baccalaureate exams, APs and the outcome of their final grades.

What we know:  AP and IB have changed their format for this year. 

AP will give open book exams that will last 45 minutes from the student’s home. 

IB will have an alternative grading system, awarding diplomas or certicates



What we don’t know:  when will testing come back to what it used to be. That is out of our control, we have to let it go. 


We can only imagine what the university admissions teams are thinking right now. While admissions determined their class of 2024, there must be meetings taking place as I write about how to conduct future admissions. If you are a senior, some universities have extended deposit dates, response dates, others have not. Please check each university, each may be different. There are too many to keep track of. 

For Juniors… Some universities are making a temporary switch to test optional. This is due to the fact that it is uncertain when both the College Board and ACT will be able to seat large groups of students for testing. Again, it will be important to check with each school, or FairTest.org has a rather comprehensive list. 

Holistic Admissions

In all admissions talks to professionals, parents and students, these teams talk about holistic admissions, taking into consideration EVERYTHING. What will be the new EVERYTHING’? What will holistic admissions look like?  What does a student profile now look like? Perhaps it will be more focused on: grades, Letters of Recommendation, student profile on their applications, resume, essays, online presence and whatever else available, and less focus on standardized testing. Will this holistic approach be the new normal? Perhaps so. It may mean that admissions will have to dig deeper, think longer and perhaps be more purposeful in what they are doing without leaning too much on standardized testing. Perhaps we are entering a new mindset on the admissions process. 

Students in Control

Students have control of putting their best foot forward. They can make their profile look authentic and true to who they are. Students can take a deep dive into self reflection and how to conduct their academic and extracurricular life. Maybe, just maybe, without the standardized testing emphasis, students will come away a bit less stressed. 

Life Changes

Our lives are all going to be different. We may be traveling less, do fewer campus tours, be a bit more discriminating. Right now, students are online doing their very best with school. Will school be grade based or pass/fail. For all of us… adults, teens, pre teens, elementary students, preschoolers alike, our social life has taken on an entirely new look. No matter what size house we live in, homes have become exponentially smaller, our yards, gardens a wonderful respite. We are finding a new way to exercise virtually, or even a walk around the neighborhood is a welcome gift.


My name is___________________. I attend ___________________High School and I will be graduating in June 2021. I virtually toured your school last week. I find myself very interested in your school. Here is what piqued my interest. Let the rep know what was interesting to you (i.e. major, etc.), if you have any questions and to send additional information. 

Thank you for your time, 

Kind Regards, 

Sally Student

What We Know

All in all, what do we know:  all universities are missing their students. They miss hosting you as prospective students, they miss interacting with you, so the next best thing: interact with them via email (don’t forget to check your email, please). We all need to be flexible and nimble during this time. We know that testing is up in the air, we know that some schools will go test optional for the class of 2021 and that some of these schools will implement the policy permanently, some will go back to their old policies for the class of 2022. 

What do we all need to be doing: be flexible in thinking, be nimble, be prepared to think from a variety of perspectives, take time to reflect and of course, remain healthy. 

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