College Admissions in the Age of the Pandemic

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Recently, Heathwood Director of College Counseling Mary Beth Fry and I had the opportunity to participate in a virtual meeting with journalist and researcher Jeffrey Selingo, author of Who Gets in and Why: A Year inside College Admissions.  The topic of his talk was trends in higher education admissions during COVID, and what to expect as a result of the major disruptions to traditional aspects of the college admissions process--aspects like canceled SATs and ACTs, reduced opportunities to visit and interview at colleges and universities, and more.

One of the trends Selingo noted was that students at well-regarded independent schools--especially those who have been able to return to on-campus learning--will be at a significant advantage for the next few years.  Some of these advantages, like access to the college counselor or more personal interactions with teachers (which yield more specific and effective college recommendations), are simply a function of being on campus.  More materially, he suggested, college and university admissions committees, who have the responsibility of filling their institutions with students prepared to do the work--are going to favor applicants who are going to schools that are known to be rigorous and where grades equate to work and achievement.  Selingo said that colleges  feel confident that students graduating from good independent schools that have been in session for some or all of the year  will be able to do their work.  It is much harder for them to trust the grades of a student from a school that hasn’t been in session and where they don’t have standardized testing data.  Even items like extracurriculars, which round out a student’s application, are more likely to be found in independent schools in the coming months and years.

There are many reasons we send our children to Heathwood, but all of us who do so (myself included) do so in part because we want our children to be well equipped for the next stages in their lives.  We want them to have opportunities, and we want them to be prepared for those opportunities.  Selingo’s talk was a reminder to me of how significant our investment can be.