A Peek at the Future of College Admissions

March 23, 2020

A recently released survey by EAB Global, How enrollment leaders are responding to COVID-19, provides a glimpse into the disrupted world of college admissions offices around the country. We have received many calls from clients asking for any guidance or insight we might have as it relates to current seniors and juniors. While clarity and certainty are not words we hear right now, we thought sharing some of the survey results of over 250 four-year colleges would be informative.

Impact of Fewer International Students

We have created a chart that illustrates the responses as they relate to the impact the coronavirus COVID-19 is expected to have on future enrollment as it relates to the reduction in international students:

With most prospective students living in countries impacted by COVID-19 and international travel bans having the potential of remaining in place for months to come, U.S. colleges are being forced to plan around such pending realities. The clear takeaway from this survey is that over the next few admissions cycles, things will change. Enrollment officers are expecting lower yields from international applicants (the number of admitted students who actually accept), which will result in more domestic students being admitted. The other takeaway is that waitlists will most likely play a major role in managing enrollment numbers this Fall. So, if you are offered a spot on a waitlist, you might be advised to consider securing your spot. Fortunately, a growing number of schools are also considering delaying the deadline for enrollment deposits from May 1 to June 1.

High School Transcripts

Another concern for students is this semester’s transcript. Many high schools have gone to a pass-fail system. Students wonder how that will impact their future applications. College admissions officers are fully aware of changes being made by each school they cover. No student will be disadvantaged relative to other applicants from a particular high school due to the change in grading policies. We believe that colleges will place more weight on previous grades and the actual rigor of the curriculum than overall GPA. Of course, each school will have unique priorities.

Test-Optional Admissions

For current high school juniors, more and more schools are relaxing the requirement that standardized tests (SAT or ACT) be submitted with next fall’s applications. In the last week, Case Western Reserve University and Chapman University were added to the list. Schools realize that scheduled test dates are being canceled and there is little certainty as to future dates. Continue to check schools that are on your list. We have various links to sources of real-time information in on our Resources Page.

AP and IB Exams

Many juniors and seniors are (were) planning on sitting for either Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams at the end of this semester. The CollegeBoard recently announced revised testing guidelines for the AP tests. They will be administered online and be reduced to 45-minute exams over a limited amount of information. The IB Organization also recently announced their response to COVID-19: all test scheduled between April 30 and May 22, 2020 will be canceled. For links to these announcements, see our Resource Page. Colleges have not had time to process these changes for us to know how they will (or will not) continue to grant college credit for certain results on these exams.


Of course, school-related extracurriculars and summer activities will be completely unique in 2020. Most students involved in a spring sport, performing art, debate, Model UN, FIRST Robotic Competitions, etc. have been forced to look elsewhere for extracurriculars. While there is a universal understanding of how this will greatly impact future applications, we believe that schools will look to see how the student pivoted when faced with this adversity. Our advice to our clients is to find virtual outlets for their particular passion. From Zoom-related gatherings to online blogs, there are ways to continue down your path. If it is sports-related, the student might need to look a different direction that highlights a non-athletic dimension. There is no doubt that everyone needs to be creative and think outside the box. As we tell our students, consider this an incredible opportunity to show (not tell) your grit and determination…traits colleges love.

Our advice is to, first and foremost, do everything you can to keep yourself and those around you as healthy as possible. Be responsible in your actions. If we all do our part, this will pass. Second, remember you can only control what you control, which means if your “plan” has been derailed, make another one. Colleges will reward those students who, in the face of this adversity, continue to demonstrate intellectual curiosity, leadership, community involvement, and creativity. Don’t stand still. Remember Sir Isaac Newton in 1665, during a year in quarantine, developed theories in calculus, optics, and gravity. As we like to say around here:

“Let’s Be Newton!”