How Has COVID-19 Affected the College Application Process?

Written by Kathleen K. | Posted in Readiness

common application sign

We are currently facing an unprecedented time with the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 has affected everything from pizza delivery to college applications.


Are you a junior or senior in high school confused about the process of gaining college admission during the COVID-19 pandemic? This complete guide will answer your questions about what you can do now to make sure you are ready for the college application process.

standardized testCollege Entrance Exams

Taking the SAT or ACT entrance exams is a common admission requirement for many colleges. But did you know there are hundreds of great colleges that don’t require you to submit your SAT or ACT scores? Plus, with the cancellation of the SAT and ACT tests, many more colleges are moving to a “Test-Optional” format for a year, or maybe longer.

“What is Test-Optional,” you ask? Many colleges are allowing students to opt out of submitting their SAT or ACT scores. You can still take these tests, but YOU decide whether you want to submit your scores or not. This gives you more flexibility in how you present yourself to schools.

confused girlHow Do You Decide?

If your test scores are below national averages, you may choose to withhold your scores. Instead, you can opt to show your other strengths. Are you involved in clubs or sports? Are you a leader? Do you volunteer? There are lots of ways to shine on your college application. The good news is that colleges today are taking a closer look at who you are as a person. Your test scores are just part of the picture.

Submit your scores if:

  • You got a high score. If your scores are above national averages, submitting your scores will emphasize your academic potential.
  • Your Guidance Counselor recommends that you submit them. Some colleges still strongly suggest that you submit your scores. Your counselor can advise you on your best choice. 

Don’t submit your scores if:

  • Your scores are low. Instead, focus your application on your strongest points.
  • You meet the minimum class rank or GPA requirements for your school. Let your overall high school academic record show your strengths.

Are the SATs and ACTs Still Being Offered?

Yes! “Test-Optional” does not mean the end of the SATs or ACTs, however, there have been a few changes and cancellations to these tests. Many students plan to take the college entrance exams more than once, hoping to improve their scores. Due to recent test cancellations, some juniors might not be able to take the test more than once before submitting their college applications. But don’t panic! These tests are still available.

ACT Dates:

Here are the dates for the ACT test date that are currently scheduled for the 2020-2021 year.

ACT Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline
December 12, 2020 November 6, 2020 November 20, 2020
February 6, 2021 January 8, 2021 January 15, 2021
April 17, 2021 March 12, 2021 March 26, 2021
June 12 2021 May 7, 2021 May 21, 2021
July 17, 2021 June 18, 2021 June 25, 2021


SAT Dates:

Here are the dates for the SAT test date that are currently scheduled for the 2020-2021 year.

SAT Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline
December 5, 2020 November 5, 2020 November 17, 2020
March 13, 2021 February 12, 2021 February 23, 2021
May 8, 2021 April 8, 2021 April 20, 2021
June 5, 2021 May 6, 2021 May 18, 2021


What Colleges Offer Test-Optional?

Colleges look at all aspects of your high school career, not just your GPA and test scores. This means that everything from community service and clubs, to a YouTube channel can be included in your application.

This doesn’t mean that you do not need to study and work hard. So sorry folks, you can’t get out of your schoolwork that easily. Grades will still be an important factor. However, you might be able to convince your parents that you need more time to play FortNite and get more views on your YouTube channel.

Other Changes During COVID-19

Merit Scholarships

A majority of test-optional universities and colleges state that students who do not complete the ACT or SAT will still be considered for merit scholarships.

There are also hundreds of merit scholarships that you can apply for. Register with and then click on this link Find College Scholarships.


With students working from home, many schools have had to change their grading system. Colleges have stated that they will respect each districts’ method of practices, grading, and teaching.

Now, this does not mean that you shouldn’t turn in your English papers or complete your math work. It just means that colleges will look at all aspects of your high school career and take into consideration the extraordinary changes that have been put into place during the pandemic. New grading practices will not have a negative impact on your application.

What’s next?

OK. You have been following safety guidelines during COVID-19. Good plan. But, you have also always been engaged in school and extra-curricular activities. You have a solid high school career and you have decided to consider test-optional colleges.

Click of the links below from and to see a list of colleges that don’t require the ACT or SAT.

2020 Best Test-Optional Colleges – Niche

Test-Optional Colleges: Complete List of 900+ School

Continue to talk to your school counselor and follow up on your Personal Graduation Plan. You have worked hard to get to this point in your academic career. Even though everything seems like chaos, your counselor is still there to advise you.

You Got This!

Whitmore School, accredited by Cognia, (formerly AdvancED), offers four Diploma Programs for students wishing to enroll full-time to earn their high school diploma. Additionally, students looking to get back on track to graduate on time, can enroll in individual courses. Students enroll and begin any time, work at their own pace, and may take up to 12 months to complete their course.

Click here to read more about Whitmore School’s College Readiness and Test Prep courses that support students in the college search process.

Kathleen - Guidance Director Written by: Kathleen, Guidance Director

November 5, 2020 in ,

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