Fall 2020: How to navigate college admissions during the changing environment

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Get guidance on coronavirus topics if you are starting college in fall 2020 or applying to schools as a high school senior.

Our College & COVID-19 series is part of our commitment to students and families during this time of uncertainty. Our goal with this series is to provide the resources, information, and guidance you need to help you successfully continue your college journey.  


You’ve worked hard all through high school and are looking forward to college. But due to the coronavirus crisis, the road to college is suddenly not what you expected. Don’t despair — the resources listed here can help you now and as you forge ahead.

Standardized testing

Due to postponements and cancellations, many universities, including the University of California system, Harvard, and Tulane University, will not require standardized tests toward admission for fall 2021.

To find out how standardized tests will be treated at specific schools, check the admissions pages of their websites or contact their admissions offices for more information.

Visit the College Board’s website for general information about the SAT and the ACT website for information about that test.

If you are taking AP (Advanced Placement) courses, all tests will now be held online, so all the hard work you put into these courses in your current school could still mean getting a score and potential college credit. For more information on AP tests, visit the College Board’s website. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) has canceled its exams, but is offering certificates and diplomas for completed work. For the latest information, visit ibo.org. 

High school grades and transcripts

Many universities across the country are making accommodations regarding grade requirements for the spring 2020 semester in light of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak and the transition to online learning for high school students. They understand that your school district and your state have made adjustments for grading based on the impact of the pandemic.

In addition, most colleges and universities have extended the deadline for receiving final high school transcripts from graduating seniors. Check with each school’s website or admissions office for details. 

College campus virtual visits

One question high school juniors may have: Can we still visit campuses this summer? Admissions offices are offering video tours, virtual tours, and other digital alternatives. It’s not quite the same as peeking into classrooms and dorms in real life, but it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up as you research the schools you want to apply to.

Ongoing changes to fall semester

What will the fall semester look like? The outlook is changing quickly. For example, some schools are considering holding fall classes online while others have created protocols to ensure social distancing guidelines are met. These decisions will continue to evolve so it’s important to check-in with your respective schools.

Most universities have a dedicated, regularly updated coronavirus news page on their websites. Another way to get updates about fall semester is to contact the admissions office at a university that interests you. Although staff members may be working remotely, they remain committed to helping you on your journey to college.

Options to keep your college aspirations on track

You probably can’t wait to experience college, but you might also be reconsidering what that experience will be like if you need to shift to living at home and taking classes online. For some students, that idea could be enough for them to consider adjusting their plans.

There are a number of ways to reassess and find the right plan for you.

If you decide to shift your college journey to a school closer to home, or to a different type of school altogether, such as a community college instead of a four-year university, you will have additional research to do. For example, you will need to transfer your admission or learn about other options from the schools involved. You’ll also want to determine any cost differences as quickly as possible. The College Board’s Tools and Calculators can be a great place to start. However, the financial aid offices at the colleges or universities involved are likely your best source for information about costs or what may be possible in your situation.

If you are determined to attend a specific school in person, but it is restricting its policies due to social distancing, you might consider deferring college for a semester, taking a gap year, or transferring to another school that is planning on-campus classes. The school’s admission office can help answer your questions about these options.

College isn’t going away. Eventually, classrooms, quads, libraries, and gyms will reopen. It just might take a little time.

Want to read more about Transitioning to college?

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