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College Apps During COVID: Everything You Need To Know For 2020, 2021 and Beyond..

The Spring energy in early April reminds us that the nearly one-million students who submitted their college applications are getting closer to their #DecisionDay.

Unfortunately, the viral outbreak that disrupted life as we knew it also impacted how schools, colleges, organizations and students will participate in the college admissions process. In this article, we clarify everything you need to know about college applications during and after the global COVID outbreak.

To understand how #COVID19 changed the college application process, let's look at the usual process before the outbreak. Most colleges and universities request the standard package from a student. The package includes:

  • High school transcripts


  • General application essay

  • Niche/personal essays (by request)

  • Recommendation letters

  • Other documentation

Now, the school closures and social distancing measures across the world will leave almost half of all public students in the United States at home for the remainder of the school year. More importantly, this situation forced us to rethink how we approach and evaluate education for the individual and for the collective. We hope that you gain, through this article, a clear guide on the changes in college admissions and what they may mean for you.


Submission Deadlines

Seniors: The deadline to submit your Statement of Intent to Register will depend on your colleges of choice. The University of California system will maintain the usual May 1 to June 1 deadline. On the other hand, some schools announced extending the date of Decision Day for potential students.

Juniors: Early action and early decision deadlines will likely be pushed back.

Pro-Tip for Juniors: Be flexible when developing an idea and open-minded during the brainstorming period.


As many high schools shift from typical letter grading to pass/fail grading, student GPA's will not be easy to calculate or review because grading will mean different things to different students in the US and around the world. Use this opportunity to lift your school grades where you can.

The 2020 AP tests scheduled for early May will transition to online test formatting that emphasize short answer and essay questions. It will keep the same 1 - 5 grading scale for the 45-minute long test and enrollment to take the 2020 session closed on March 13th.

Subject tests are waived from nearly every college admission requirement; advisers on our team argue that you 'do not need to worry about these tests right now'.

SAT/ACT Testing

Most colleges have agreed to be test-optional during the 2020 application session since many test dates have canceled or changed. But, while this opportunity may help students get considered for competitive admissions, it will not necessarily make it easier to get admitted.

The College Board officially canceled the June 6th SAT. They note that the College Board will begin administering the SAT on weekends in August and September. The scheduled dates on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5 will continue as planned.

The ACT scheduled for April has been canceled. The June 13th date still remains on schedule, but it will likely be canceled as well.

They plan to add alternative test days and try out new ways of giving the tests to students.

General App Essay

Tying internships and programs that you participated into your general application essay will be key to standing out during this upcoming admissions cycle. While these have always been important, admissions officers will be especially aware of students who demonstrate expertise in a field, developing a passion, examples of leadership and involvement in your community.

Remember - there is strength in adversity. When expressing yourself, create a story that talks about a situation or journey of creativity, realization and authority. Juniors: Start your essays early!

Niche/Personal Essay

Over the next few months, think about new ways to purse the things that interest you and showcase your skills. You cannot rely on the 'normal' ways to do this like working for a local team, joining a residential summer program, traveling abroad for cultural immersion. Our motto during this time is think big, but keep it small. Translate hobbies, experiences, lessons into something at home.

Recommendation Letters

Since many of the benchmark indicators used by admissions officers are typically looking for have been canceled or suspended, there will be more weight applied to other sections of your student package. Recommendation letters are great because they are very personal, yet from an outside perspective.

Keep up a good relationships with your teachers during this distance learning period. Check in with your teacher every two weeks about your progress, especially if they seem to be struggling with the transition. We live in tough times folks. For students who may not have the best relationships with their teachers, this is your opportunity to redeem your record! Swallow your pride, own up to your mistakes, challenge yourself to do better and move on. We promise it will leave you better-off in the long term. Your education is your power; it truly makes no sense to neglect it.

Other Documentation

One of the biggest challenges families may now be facing is the unforeseen financial stress usually considered when choosing colleges. Documentation of major changes to you or your families financial situation can help negotiate better financial aid packages to those who need them.

While there is no official word on how colleges, government agencies and other institutions plan on updating the aid to students, you can prepare yourself and the financial records needed when the announcement is made. Create a folder to keep your copy of these records along with other documentation that may be required from you.



Even though life after #quarantine may be hard to imagine right now, the effects of distance learning on grading and the overall system of education will be life-long. As we move rapidly into a futuristic age of technology, the merging of in-person and virtual teaching tools will likely become more normal over time. In the mean time, we understand if anxiety is high about staying on track or surviving academically. Focus on finding balance before diving in deep into school work. Then, do your best because that is all you really can do. If you need a little help, reach out to us at and our tutors will work with you to improve your understanding which boosts your confidence.

SAT/ACT Testing

This topic is a little more blurry than the others. There has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of these standardized tests. This year, many colleges opted to waive their testing requirements for the upcoming class of 2021. Boston University, Amherst College, and Williams College made announcements agreeing to similar terms. Others like Santa Clara University chose to remove their SAT/ACT requirement for two years, and Tufts for three years. Not surprisingly, some have dropped their testing requirement forever. There is no word on how this shift is excepted to change education; that's pretty hard to predict. In the meantime, its best to keep your options open when considering colleges to apply to.

General & Niche/Personal Essays

We recommend booking an appointment using our college advising services to receive one-on-one brainstorming, editing, revising and finalizing any of your college essays. However, you can make steps to build your story on your own too. This period of solitude during COVID-19 has highlighted the goodness and unity of humanity and the uglier side of people. We cannot imagine that it has been easy on you or your loved ones. The late Maya Angelou wrote in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Find the courage to write the untold story inside you or happening in front of you.

If you need more guidance on dealing with domestic violence during this time, read more - here.

Recommendation Letters

There are hundreds of great articles already out there that describe how to craft the perfect request-and-receive plan for your college recommendations - like this one. If you'd like us to write our own article, let us know in the comments and we can make that happen.

Other Documentation

We will be releasing an e-book soon that highlights financial planning for parents and students interested in future college admissions. Similar to our recommendation in the present changes, keeping a folder of important financial and medical records keeps things in one place for the moment you need them.

Class of 2020 - If you have not yet heard it enough, congratulations. This is a huge accomplishment that you should be proud of and celebrated for. You are in control of how you respond to life, so keep mental wellness at your highest priority, but don't forget to enjoy your moment.

Class of 2021 - it's time to pull up the boot straps because we have work to do! Strength and creativity are on your side. Don't worry, we believe in your ability to achieve success, but it never hurts to have a little help. College essays, calculus homework, AP course preparation - we got your back. Reach out to us or book your service with us today to get the one-on-one support you deserve.

Seniors, have you decided where you want to go this fall? Let us know in the comments or tag us in your #DecisionDay post!

Re-imagine your capabilities,

The IA Team

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