In a normal year, high school senior Megan Schultz would have a difficult time choosing a college.
But this isn’t a normal year.
The COVID pandemic has changed the way prospective students look at colleges and the way administrators showcase their schools. Unlike in years’ past, students do not have the opportunity to come to campus for a tour or a presentation. At UB, this has resulted in a vastly different admissions process.
Schultz says that the application process has been more difficult than in previous years because “instead of just writing a college essay like most students normally would be able to, I have to write addendums talking about why I didn’t get to take my SAT or what my grades looks like during the end of my junior year since they are simply marked as credit.”
Across the country, college admissions offices are struggling to adapt to their new reality. Schools are being forced to switch to a virtual format and provide programming for students over the Internet, rather than on-campus. These modifications — virtual visits, online presentation series, current student panels — have completely reshaped the way students apply to college.
Troy A. Miller, UB director of admissions, said his department’s objectives have remained unchanged, even if the delivery has been.
“[We will] continue to inform students and parents that they are being taught by the same highly regarded faculty members whether in-person or remotely,” Miller said. “The learning outcomes and academic rigor continues to be present, and our faculty have worked hard over the summer to ensure their remote courses continue to provide a high quality academic experience to include co-curricular experiences.”
Miller says there “has not been a huge change in the content of the programming offered pre-COVID.” Even though seniors might be hundreds of miles from Buffalo, they can still learn what the school has to offer.
UB Admissions conducted an Academic Signature Presentation Series for prospective students from Oct. 19-31. During these sessions, students heard from UB faculty and staff about program requirements and what makes for a strong application. Students were also able to “learn about programs in UB’s schools and colleges” and work on their résumés and majors.
UB also offered a current students panel where high school seniors were able to sign up for a session based on their concerns about entering college. The topics ranged from finding the right major, learning about Buffalo, navigating the remote and hybrid learning environment, getting involved on campus and experiential learning. Prospective students were able to ask current UB students questions.
Prospective students were able to attend fall workshops throughout the entirety of the semester. These workshops detailed the financial aid process and gave students a window into life at UB and the Queen City.
UB also offered virtual visits, after in-person tours were suspended. These virtual visits allowed students to see what UB has to offer and provided the same information students would have received in an in-person tour. The university recorded these virtual tours, so families who could not attend live tours could watch one in their own time.
Students and parents can also schedule a virtual one-on-one meeting with a member of UB’s Admissions, Financial Aid offices or university faculty.
In late June, SUNY temporarily suspended SAT and ACT testing requirements for all of it’s 64 campuses.
“UB supports SUNY’s decision to temporarily suspend SAT and ACT requirements for admissions for the Spring 2021, Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters,” Miller said.
In an episode of Morning Edition on NPR CEO of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling Angel Pérez noted that students won’t only be missing SAT and ACT scores; in many cases, they may also be missing a semester or two of grades and extracurricular activities.
As the college admissions process goes through a rebirth, Schultz says she is “overall just really excited to go to college no matter the circumstances.”
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