How to Navigate College Admissions during COVID

college admissions college applications college during covid Mar 04, 2021
college admission

If your child is in high school, you might be wondering how Covid will impact their college admissions process. Questions I have received lately from parents include the following:

  1. How are colleges viewing SAT/ACT tests given than many testing dates have been cancelled?
  2. How are colleges assessing transcripts that include one or more semester of Pass/Fail results instead of grades?
  3. How will colleges evaluate applicants’ extra-curricular activities since many have not been taking place?

Let’s look at each one.


Many dates have indeed been cancelled and for the class of 2021, most colleges went test optional, which meant that students were not required to submit test scores. However, the test optional schools were not mean test blind, which means they do not look at scores at all, even if they are submitted. Many colleges still use SAT or ACT test scores as part of a formula to determine merit aid packages (grants/scholarships/tuition discounting), so if a student sends in their scores, they will be used for evaluation for the packages and/or admission. Very few colleges were test blind before or during Covid. The list of test blind schools for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle includes CalTech, Dickinson, Reed, the University of California system (including UCLA and Berkeley), and Washington State University, among 20 others.

Tip #1: Even though the trend is towards test optional and even test blind policies, as evidenced by the UC system, we are not there yet. So follow these three steps:

  1. Have your kids identify whether they are more likely to score higher on the SAT or ACT (I have an excellent diagnostic test which you can ask me about below)
  2. Make a timeline for test prep to avoid piling it on during junior year, which tends to be the most challenging academically
  3. Plan to have them take the test at least twice.

At the same time, if your kids struggle with timed standardized tests, there are many great test optional or test blind schools for them to consider. I would be delighted to help with the college list!


Whether the 2020-2021 academic year was your teen’s 9th, 10th or 11th grade, they undoubtedly have some Pass/Fails on their transcript instead of grades. The good news is that many schools adopted this policy at for least the first term of remote grading, so colleges will be used to seeing this. However, there are a few things you can do to make sure universities understand your child’s academic abilities and accomplishments:

Tip #2: Be sure to have them focus on rigorous courses next year--AP or IB if they are offered. In addition, summer study at a university, even online, can help showcase a student’s abilities as these are college level courses. There is a difference between pre-college summer programs and simply enrolling in a summer college course, so be sure to read the fine print. Regular college classes are always preferable if the student is ready for this academically, so research the type of summer course that fits the bill.


As in person options have not been available during the pandemic and might still not be in place for the next few months, there are a number of online opportunities for community service, internships, and artistic projects. It is important for students to remain engaged with their peers and the world, not only for their own well-being but also to build a compelling profile for colleges that truly tells their story.

Tip #3: Be creative and research carefully. For example, has filters for remote and teen use and offers many nonprofits your child can work with. For budding researchers, try virtual programs through Pioneer Academics, Horizon, or Polygence. Or for natural communicators, have them teach English to students around the world through platforms like VipKid. And this is just the beginning…

Contact me here for help with the SAT vs. ACT Diagnostic, College List, Summer Planning, or my list of 41 Online Extracurricular Activities. Look forward to connecting with you soon!

Anjali Maazel

Anjali Maazel

Founder and CEO of Anja Education Consultants

At Anja Education Consultants, we pride ourselves on the exceptional expertise of our Founder and CEO, Anjali Maazel. With over 15 years of experience as an alumna interviewer for Princeton University, our team, led by Anjali, brings a wealth of knowledge in college admissions. Our interdisciplinary approach, which melds arts, international education, and public relations, allows us to provide unparalleled guidance in college planning. The cornerstone of our success is the proprietary Talent Development 3D Process™, a unique strategy that has achieved a remarkable 100% success rate in securing admissions for our clients to at least one of their top three preferred schools. As a respected Ted Talk speaker and a sought-after authority in college admissions, we are frequently invited by high schools across the globe to share our insights and strategies, empowering students to reach their full potential in the competitive world of college admissions.
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