Jill Haley: Class of 2021, college and COVID-19
In last month’s column, I wrote about how COVID-19 was impacting our graduating seniors in their decision making about where to attend college in 2020. In this month’s column, I will discuss the impact the virus is having on our rising seniors, the class of 2021.
It was a semester that high schoolers will not soon forget. Suddenly everything came to a halt. No more athletics, dance performances, club meetings, debate tournaments, and yes, classes.
Second semester is widely thought of as the most important semester for students applying to college, as it is the last full semester of grades and activities that colleges will see before making their decision on who to admit.
The Nevada Joint Union High School District, along with many other districts in California, decided to adopt a Pass/Fail grading system for the second semester. This was due to the fact that some students had limited opportunities to access online curriculum and had no direct-teacher access.
What does this mean for a student’s overall grade point average? Ultimately, Pass/Fail grades are not incorporated into the GPA at all. Many students taking accelerated classes such as Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes were counting on the GPA bump that comes with the extra rigor required and are worried that it will affect their admissions chances.
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The information we are getting from college admission folks is that Pass/Fail “COVID-19 Semester” will not be used to determine admissions. What they will do, however, is look more at the first semester of 2019. For those students hoping to improve their grades the second semester, this is a disappointment.
Another huge development for our rising seniors is the cancelation of college admissions tests for the spring and early summer. This is traditionally the time most juniors take the tests. Colleges in response have largely declared they will be test optional for the next coming admissions year. While this is good news for some students, others were counting on their good test taking skills to improve their chances of admissions.
In a stunning decision, the University of California announced that they will permanently eliminate the current testing requirement and will be developing their own test. Freshmen entering in 2021 and 2022, can opt out of submitting scores altogether.
What will colleges look for in applicants in the next few years if testing is optional? Grades and rigor of curriculum will always be closely looked at, but it is likely they will place more focus on the college essay and extra-curriculars.
Many are wondering if the class of 2021 will be more selective due to the current number of in-coming college freshman deciding to defer, or take a gap year because they are unwilling to spend at least the first semester taking classes on-line. This could leave less spots for next year’s class.
Congratulations to the graduating class of 2020. And to the class of 2021, it could be a bumpy ride as colleges navigate how they will evaluate college applications and decide how many open spots they have.
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