The Effect of COVID-19 on College Admissions: Top 50 Universities

The spread of coronavirus has ushered society into uncharted territory. No one is untouched by this phenomenon, including colleges and universities nationwide. Each university is tackling this crisis in its own way, but there are some common responses among the top fifty universities.

At this time, all universities have cancelled on-campus events through April, and most have cancelled them outright. These events include tours, orientations, interviews, stay-ins, welcome events, etc. Some schools have moved orientations online, but this is still a rare approach.

Admissions offices are closed at every school, but communication is available through email and sometimes phone. Only a few schools have pages dedicated to answering admissions-related questions coming out of the crises, but all of them have pages dedicated to COVID-19 news/updates as they pertain to the university. Though helpful, these pages are meant for current members of each university community such as students, faculty, and staff, not so much for admitted or prospective students.

Generally, most long-term decisions haven’t yet been made among the universities.  This is not surprising given the uncertainty about how long the pandemic will disrupt the normal order of things. An optimistic perspective would have things return to how they were, but I’m not sure anyone can make this assumption yet, nor should they. Still, universities are taking the cautious route by pushing big decisions pack as much as possible.

One exception is Case Western Reserve University, which has decided to go “test optional” for the Fall 2020 application season. I wouldn’t be surprised if more schools went this route given the uncertainty about when standardized tests will be up and running again. An interesting case will be the University of California, which was scheduled to announce its decision on “test optional” admissions in May. Whether the decision still comes out then is unknown, but there is no doubt that current events will now affect the outcome.

Like all of us, schools are handling this crisis in their own ways on a day-by-day basis. Each school is making and will continue to make the choices that they think work best for their campus communities. The best advice I can give students and parents now is to pay attention to each school’s COVID-19 page for the most up-to-date information. Yes, this is may turn out to be a tedious task, but there is no single approach to the current situation.

A good resource to cut down research time is the NACAC College Admission Status Update: Coronavirus Update page. This page compiles information regarding schools and admissions, addressing things from whether the schools are still accepting visitors (they are not) to deadline adjustments to links with more information. Students and Parents should refer to this list if possible, as it summarizes the information they are most likely interested in knowing. Refer to the table below to find out if a top-50 school is in the database. If it isn’t, refer to the link provided if available. If a link is not available, contact the admissions office directly. Keep in mind that all schools are working remotely or with a limited staff.

Ultimately, the best advice I can give now is BE PATIENT. It’s still too early to know the long-term effects of the coronavirus on admissions and university functions. Universities know this, so their focus right now is addressing the needs of their current students. Other decisions will come in time. Still, universities have made it clear that, given the interruption to normal school functions, each student applying in Fall 2020 will be evaluated based on whatever circumstances they have encountered. That is to say, focus on doing well in whatever situation you find yourself. The schools will understand.


School Info Available on NACAC Explicit Info re: Admissions on Webpage Info
Princeton No No
Harvard No No
Columbia No No
Yale No No
Stanford No Yes
Chicago Yes
Penn Yes
Northwestern No No
Duke Yes
Hopkins No Yes
CalTech Yes
Dartmouth Yes
Brown Yes
Notre Dame Yes
Vanderbilt Yes
Cornell No No
Rice No Yes
Washington (St. Louis) Yes
Emory Yes
UC Berkeley Yes
Georgetown No Yes
Carnegie Mellon Yes
Michigan Yes
Wake Forest Yes
Virginia Yes
Georgia Tech Yes
Tufts No Yes
UNC Chapel Hill No Yes
Rochester No No
UC Santa Barbara Yes
Florida Yes
UC Irvine Yes
Boston College Yes
UC San Diego Yes
UC Davis No Yes
BU Yes
Brandeis Yes
Case Western Reserve No No Test-optional admissions for Fall 2021
William and Mary Yes
Northeastern Yes
Tulane Yes
Wisconsin-Madison No
Villanova Yes
Urbana Champaign No Yes
Texas-Austin Yes
Lehigh Yes
Posted in Posts.