By Path Mentor A.L., a graduate of Stanford University, majored in Biomedical Computation (Originally Posted on June 26, 2020)
Without a doubt, COVID-19 this past year has ravished the world in unprecedented ways. The pandemic has affected virtually all aspects of life, from personal to professional to academic. Many normal behaviors such as handshakes and hugs have now been restricted or disallowed by governments. Although the responses have varied much globally, I am most familiar with what has happened here in the United States. Particularly, I want to focus on what has happened to U.S. universities and how it will affect college admissions for those involved. Mainly, I want to explore the new reality for students applying, how admissions staff will have to respond, and the potential long-term results of COVID-19 on higher education.
First off, the students applying to colleges will have to adapt and change their strategies because the period leading up to when applications are due is so different. During the junior summer before college applications, students have that final chance to improve their resumes with summer internships, service programs, or work opportunities. For the summer of 2020, things will look very different. Many programs have simply been canceled out of caution, while others have shifted to online versions, diminishing the value of what they can offer. With this shift, students will have to get creative with how to use their summer to make it beneficial to them. Some ideas of how I would personally use this time: learn to code in a different language, take on a new volunteer project, or simply enjoy more time with family. In addition, different students will be affected in disproportionate ways. Some students more well-off will be able to weather this storm easily, while others from more challenging backgrounds who used school as an escape will no longer be able to. Therefore, the pathway up to college will now change fundamentally, too. I believe that it will actually become more unequal for students because of how this virus has disproportionately and negatively affected poorer minority communities. I think it would be a good idea for students who have been affected by COVID-19 particularly to emphasize those effects in their personal statements.
On the flipside, college admissions staff will also have to change their behaviors and criteria when it comes to admitting students. Over time, top institutions like Stanford and MIT have learned how to calibrate their scoring when deciding who gets in or not. Although there are so many subjective factors such as recommendation letters and personal statements, there are many other things that have been optimized such as GPA, school rigor, and standardized testing. This year is an aberration though; student scores will be more inflated in some places and artificially low in others. Admissions committees will have to take the new data into account and make sure not to bias their decisions. As mentioned before, the wealthier students might very well be benefiting more than others, so for the sake of fairness, I hope universities will recognize this when evaluating summer activities, grades, and personal statements.
Lastly, I believe that higher education will face a shift in how society perceives it in the next decade. I think that there will be a drop in applicants during this upcoming recession: students may try and find jobs to help their families or realize that they cannot afford the cost of tuition at this time. Certain majors will see an uptick, such as epidemiology and the biological sciences, whereas others will see a decline. The prevalence of online courses will also change. I think that more programs will continue to shift to online education as this pandemic has shown that it can be possible to creatively teach from afar. Overall, I think it will be good for higher education because they will have to adapt to a changing world, and offer things that students really need.
Overall, I just wanted to share some thoughts on how this pandemic will affect college admissions and college itself. With awareness of these points, I hope that you will adapt and come out of this unique and challenging time even stronger!
Here at Path Mentors, we as mentors would be happy to help evaluate your current landscape and see where we can both make your life easier and your applications more impressive.