Despite COVID-19, College Applications Are Back to (Almost) Normal


Photo by Nicole Castagna

H-F’s 2021 College Night that hosted over 140 colleges and universities.

Lailah Taylor, Staff Writer

Post COVID-19, students are facing some new requirements when it comes to college applications.

In previous years, students faced the usual pressure of writing essays, choosing which college they want to go to, visiting campuses and submitting SAT scores. Most of this remains the same.

The central change that students face revolves around standardized testing. 

Previously, students preparing for college have taken or retaken their ACTs and SATs, and submitted their scores when applying for college. Now, according to NPR, over 1,000 colleges and universities are choosing not to require them.

H-F formerly had an all school test day for the PSATs. This school year, H-F provided the PSAT for juniors.

According to the department chair of H-F’s assessment office David Kush, “Given the return from COVID, challenges of making up lost time, etc., we wanted to maximize instructional time for students and staff.  We provided the PSAT for juniors that wanted to take it, and had approximately the same number of students as last year.” 

In addition to changes in test requirements, students also have been experiencing different essay questions on Common app, the application portal where students can apply to multiple colleges at once. 

On the app, “There is now an opportunity for you to talk about how Covid-19 has impacted your academic career and personal life,”  H-F senior Kyla Emory said.

According to Common’s website, in addition to the new COVID-19 essay question, they’ve also included space for college counselors to describe the impact COVID-19 has had on their community. 

Common is offering this space for counselors and students  “to provide consistent questions and language that colleges and universities can use to review applications, and that applicants will only have to answer once.”

According to NPR and H-F’s college counselors, colleges and universities are more likely to focus more on students’ essays and recommendation letters to determine admittance. 

“A personal statement is much more important now. We are not just looking at test scores and numbers, now there is this other piece that colleges and universities have to comb through to see if the student matches up with what the universities and colleges are looking for,” said college counselor Brad Kain. 

Kain tells us one thing that colleges really look at.“Retention rates are really important to colleges.” 

Most students don’t know what retention rates are so Kain explains. “Retention rates are from freshman year to sophomore year. Did they stay, were we able to retain those students, or how long it takes students to graduate?,” said Kain.

 That information is really important because a lot of things depend on that, colleges use that as advertisement for their students. “We don’t know how good of a predictor a transcript is to the retention rates,” said Kain.

For H-F’s college counselors, though, the pandemic’s impact, changes to the college application process has been slight. 

“Formerly, the application process hasn’t changed all that much,” said college counselor Brad Kain. 

Kevin Coy, another one of H-F’s college counselors, is not worried about standardized tests leaving the process.

“In all honesty, I was not a huge fan of the standardized test requirement before the pandemic, so I was happy to see colleges move to this test-optional policy,“ stated Coy.

This change in focus could, in Coy’s opinion, lead colleges to focus on more essential parts of a students’ performance in high school.

There are many things that could factor into how a student does on the test day,” Coy said. “However, as I’ve told many students, there are many other factors that go into an admission decision: GPA, strength of curriculum, extracurriculars [and] demographics.”

H-F has continued to support its students through the college application process by having frequent college presentations on campus, encouraging students to meet with their counselors and by hosting College Night.

College night was on Monday, Oct. 18 and hosted more than 140 colleges and universities.

Pandemic or not, Coy feels there is a good way to look at the college application process.

The application process is like a puzzle. There are many parts to this puzzle. Even though you’re missing a piece of the puzzle, you can still make out the picture,” encouraged Coy.