With the pandemic, what do colleges expect to see in future applicants?

By Maxine Seya

“With the pandemic, will colleges expect next year’s applicants to present academic and extracurricular profiles as strong as those from previous years?”

– Marion, a parent from N.H.

An Harvard Graduate School of Education organization, Making Caring Common, just released a report answering how college admissions deans will evaluate future applicants with the pandemic in mind.

The organization, whose mission is to help parents raise kids who care about other individuals and the common good, compiled a collective statement from over 300 admissions deans, outlining what truly matters in college admissions, pandemic in mind.

What’s important is not racking up awards, leadership positions, and community service hours.

It’s not just a 4.9 GPA and 1600 SAT.

Colleges now seek applicants who have demonstrated self-care and care for others.

Here are the 5 highlights from the 300 deans’ collective statement on what they truly value in candidates, given the pandemic:

  1. Self-care. Admissions deans know that the pandemic has caused financial, emotional, and physical stress in almost every family. They want to see students who know how to “be gentle with themselves during this time.” That might mean taking care of mental health over the number of AP courses taken. Or learning to cope with cancelled internships without giving up and losing hope. Or using words to encourage themselves when online learning gets tough or their favorite sports practices get cancelled. College, pandemic or not, can also be a stressful time for young adults. Knowing that teenagers can take care of themselves helps the admissions officers see how they can also succeed independently on a college campus.
  2. Academics. Colleges will evaluate academic performance before and after the pandemic. If academic plans changed because of Covid, students won’t be penalized. As always, students will be evaluated based on the context of their high school, family, and community environments. If opportunities were available to, say, fulfill a prerequisite of a student’s intended college major, but the student didn’t take them, colleges may note that as a negative.

Hi there.

No one spotlights the human stories of college admissions like we do.

But we're independent journalists who need support from readers like you.

Your subscription keeps us going -- completely ad-free.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.