COVID-19 prompting students to adapt to new college admission processes


Samantha Freeman

Due to COVID-19 and distance learning, changes have been made to the college admission processes. Seniors applying this year have some unanswered questions about processes such as SAT and ACT requirements. Graphic by Samantha freeman.

Sreeja Mudumby, Communications Manager

Since March, Coppell High School’s doors have been shut for students, with their homes as their new classroom environment. Between applying to college during the COVID-19 pandemic and finishing their last year of high school, seniors are not only faced with a lot of work, but a lot of questions.

Colleges are implementing application systems, such as the Common App and Coalition for students, where applicants can talk about how COVID-19 has affected them. This allows students another opportunity to present themselves in their applications. 

I know that they are putting less emphasis on traditional markers,” CHS English teacher Richard Orlopp said. “I read a number of statements where colleges said they were more interested in hearing about students pursuing their own, unique interests rather than cramming in classes and activities they think will impress schools. In other words, do you and be the best at it.”

Though COVID-19 has created many obstacles for learning, universities such as University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are compensating for the cancellation of in-person campus visits with virtual sessions for prospective students. 

According to The Texas Tribune, COVID-19 has created a lot of confusion for students taking the SAT and ACT. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, test dates since March have been canceled in the Coppell area, making it harder for CHS students to get their desired score. 

“Most years whenever you become a senior, you take the SAT or ACT a bunch of times and try to get the biggest score that you can,” Coppell senior Matthew O’Quinn said. “But this year, it cut off really soon, I was a little lazy and didn’t take them my junior year, and I was planning on taking them this year.”

As a result, many colleges such as UT Austin and Texas A&M have gone ‘test optional’, or are not requiring SAT and ACT scores for the class of 2021. The ‘test optional’ policy dictates that while prospective students may submit standardized testing scores for consideration in the holistic review process, the scores will not advantage or disadvantage an applicant..

According to The Texas Tribune, “at test-optional universities, admissions officials say applicants will be judged more holistically, with added emphasis on factors like high school grades and curriculum, letters of recommendation and extended resumes.”

Coppell also adopted a pass/fail system for the last nine weeks of the 2019-20 school year, which was seniors’ last chance to improve their GPA. the spring of 2020. Students’ grades were not recorded for the last nine weeks, as a passing grade got them the credit for the class. However, Coppell High School Business Management and Business Law teacher Bruce Stewart thinks the pass/fail system was not a disadvantage for the students. 

While the pandemic has been a challenge for all, in my opinion, the district’s migration to pass/fail for the final nine-week session last spring was not too impactful to students,” Stewart said. “Pass/fail has not been adopted this year, so I don’t view last spring’s decision as detrimental. Since this pandemic is impacting students throughout the country, I don’t see colleges using it as a distinguishing factor for acceptance or denial.”

Extracurricular activities are another big component of colleges’ holistic review process. With the postponement of sports seasons and fine arts productions, students including Coppell senior Annelise Holguin have difficulty continuing their activities. 

“Being the choir president has made it really hard to organize things for this year when everything is so uncertain, and the population of the school is divided between being at school and not being at school,” Holguin said. “I was looking forward to a lot of things this year like the [Coppell choir] Madrigal Feast. I spent a bunch of money making [senior] overalls that probably no one is going to see.”

The pandemic’s impact on the fall 2021 college admissions cycle may have lasting effects. Many universities are reevaluating the value of test scores, such as St. Edward’s University in Austin, which has gone permanently test optional, and the University of California system, which is adopting a test optional system until fall 2024.  

“The loss of extracurricular activities last spring was certainly a disappointment for students who worked hard and prepared for spring competitions,” Stewart said. “I remain hopeful the challenges with COVID-19 will be resolved by this spring making this a difficult year, but one we can look back upon and say was a year which we as a society learned from.”


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