Coronavirus outbreak affects college admissions

With the coronavirus pandemic in full effect, students across Westminster and America have been a little unsettled during the past few weeks with lingering questions about SATs, college admissions, and the re-opening of places and activities. The college-bound high school seniors have had the most disappointment managing the changes put in place to try and reduce the spread of the coronavirus with their prom and graduation being postponed until July 30. During this time there is a lot of uncertainty and confusion, but all decisions are being made with the health of all people in mind, and Westminster students have been resilient throughout all these changes through the support of the college counselors and teachers.

“Even in a time of interruptions and uncertainty, [the class of 2020] is showing optimism, empathy, and strong character,” said Westminster’s director of college counseling Steve Frappier. 

Another effect of the virus is that multiple colleges across the nation have closed, and students that had scheduled visits to go tour the campus this spring can no longer go.  

“Shelter-in-place has required seniors to pick their college without an ability to visit or to revisit campuses.  Campuses are figuring out how to convert their usual programming with room for backup plans,” said Frappier. 

Frappier also added that by the time Westminster shifted to virtual learning, the seniors had applied to nearly all of their colleges and almost all of them had gotten accepted into at least one school. 

“When the rest of the college decisions arrived by mid April, everyone had options to choose between,” Frappier said. 

In addition to the cancellation of visits and closing of college campuses, some colleges have changed their requirements for standardized testing as students are unable to take the SAT and ACT this spring. 

“Not all seniors have the same needs,” said Frappier. “For example, thousands of seniors across Georgia could not take the SAT or ACT for the first time this spring.  The quantity was high enough that 24 of the 26 public, four-year colleges in Georgia waived their SAT/ACT requirements for this senior class and will admit students according to GPA only.”

This news can be good for some and bad for others, all depending on the student’s needs. Throughout all these changes, the college counselors are doing their best to help the seniors through this time and prepare them for the future just like they would if we were in regular school.

“Each senior needs and wants something different at this time, and college counselors are focused on individual Q&A to provide assurance and planning for the months ahead,” said Frappier.

Along with standardized tests and college commitments, there are many other aspects of transitioning to college that the college counselors are helping the seniors go through in these times.

  “My conversations today included comparing financial aid and scholarship packages between two very different colleges, how best to contact a college department with a specific question about research, looking up AP credit policies, sending transcripts for a fraternity rush process, and an interview for a Westminster English project.  These are all normal conversations for this time of year; we’re just not in Pressly at the moment,” said Frappier. 

As far as campus reopening goes, the number one focus for colleges is maintaining the quality of their educational program. 

Frappier said that there are three key aspects that contribute to that focus: “healthy and cared-for faculty and staff, students to teach, and a reliable method for those groups to engage with one another.

If the virus continues to escalate, colleges are busy working out backup plans for the fall in case they are unable to open their campuses. Just like Westminster, they have been preparing for all kinds of possibilities such as synchronous learning, asynchronous learning, in-person, or online. 

“Colleges are really focused on leadership, innovation, and taking care of their community and those in their neighborhoods who rely on the services of that college,” said Frappier. 

The coronavirus outbreak has not only affected the state of college admissions for the current seniors but also affects the class of 2021 and their ability to take standardized tests and college visits. 

“The list of colleges that will express some kind of flexibility regarding standardized test scores (such as the ACT and the SAT) has grown to over 1,100, according to  Nearly 800,000 students worldwide could not or cannot take the March, May, or June SAT,” said Frappier. 

Colleges understand the impact this virus has had all over our nation, and some are even not requiring an ACT or SAT score for their application since many students are unable to take it. Even if students are unable to go tour the campus, they can still learn plenty about the college digitally.