HOUSTON - Many high school students have to apply to colleges this year without SAT scores or extracurricular activities. COVID-19 has forced colleges to change how they evaluate applicants this year, and perhaps permanently.
Georgetown University reports most U.S. colleges have dropped standardized test requirements for applicants this year after many SAT and ACT tests were canceled.
Instead, CollegeWise counselors say college admissions are re-emphasizing grades.
"The first thing that was always the most important was how you performed academically, especially in junior year," said Casey Near with CollegeWise.
The University of Houston has announced it's letting students apply without SAT or ACT scores this year, but a chart of requirements shows many will need at least at 3.4 GPA or be admitted by individual review.
Rice University announced a one-year test optional policy, writing in a statement, "multiple factors in an applicant’s file are evaluated."
And a Texas Southern University statement says it will provide automatic admission to students in the top 25% of their class with at least a 3.0 GPA.
CollegeWise experts say if extracurricular activities were canceled, students should find other ways to grow, such as learning a new language or hobby. They say essays should highlight what makes a student unique, like performing volunteer work, or why they really want to attend the school.
"Your goal should be, Am I being clear in what motivates me? What drives me? What has shaped me? And am I likeable?" said Liz Pack with CollegeWise.
But experts say don't count on low enrollment in colleges across the country this year to make it easier to get in.
"This year did not make it any easier to get into Harvard, or UT Austin. Was it easier to get into some regional schools who were struggling with their application numbers? Possibly," said Near.
But they say students may be able to get more financial aid once they're accepted.
"You can sometimes go to the school that gave you less and say look at what Stony Brook gave me. You're really my number one choice, but for financial reasons I would go to Stony Brook. What can you do?," suggested Pack.
These experts also recommend talking with admissions officers and current students to learn what qualities and qualifications the school is looking for.