Last updated 3/31/2020.

As school closures and testing cancellations spread worldwide, U.S. colleges and universities are slowly but surely releasing updates to their admissions policies. As ArborBridge anticipated, admissions offices are so far responding to this public health crisis with sympathy and generosity. 

Here are the highlights of what we know so far. We’ve focused on the top-ranked universities and liberal arts colleges in the U.S. We’ll keep this post updated as noteworthy changes continue.


Testing policy changes from leading schools

  • MIT, the last school to have formally required Subject Tests, not only dropped them the week of March 23 but noted that they will not even consider Subject Test scores from students who submit them.
  • Harvard became the first school to release a formal statement to high school juniors regarding the impact of the coronavirus:
    • Harvard acknowledges that students will have fewer chances to retake the SAT and ACT and says they hope students “will not feel compelled” to take these exams multiple times.
    • Harvard claims students will not be disadvantaged if they are unable to submit Subject Test or AP scores, if some of their class marks are Pass/Fail only, or if their extracurricular activities are limited as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
    • Harvard maintains that “our revolutionary financial aid program will not be compromised in any way.”
  • Tufts, Case Western, and Boston University are the latest well-known selective universities to go test-optional in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Case Western and BU just for one year and Tufts for 3.

ArborBridge’s takeaway: Elite schools are often bellwethers for the rest of higher education. We can expect to see other schools similarly soften their policies and offer encouraging allowances to students. Whether these statements actually relieve stress for students remains to be seen.


General reassurances across the field

Many major schools – including UPenn, Columbia, Notre Dame, Amherst, Wellesley, Pomona, WashU – St. Louis, Rice, and Middlebury – have updated their admissions pages to suggest leniency for future applicants. Some examples:

  • From Columbia: “We understand that daily activities in some communities have been curtailed, including the ability to participate in school, extracurricular activities, and other events and gatherings. We want to assure affected applicants that their safety and well-being is paramount, and these conditions will not negatively impact their applications to Columbia.” 
  • From Middlebury: “We are aware that many schools are modifying their educational models in order to keep the virus from spreading. Middlebury will work with your school to understand the modifications put in place and will not allow these changes to negatively impact your application review. We expect that you will fulfill the expectations set forth by your school to complete your high school diploma.”
  • From Washington University in St. Louis: “We know that you are unable to take standardized tests right now. We know it is hard but please don’t worry. We anticipate that we will need to be flexible during the upcoming admission cycle and will communicate any changes in our requirements as soon as we understand the full impact of COVID-19 on the availability of standardized testing. Until then, focus on staying healthy, find ways to relax, and continue with your studies in whatever form they may take over the coming weeks.”

ArborBridge’s Takeaway: For now, assume the schools you are considering will be generous with your application and with the ways you have been impacted by changes outside your control. Expect to see more schools add similar statements if school closures and test cancellations continue into the summer.


Widespread changes to college visit access

A vast number of college campuses are already closed across the U.S., and more are likely to close soon if they haven’t already. College visits are thus largely off the table, though some schools have moved to virtual tours. If you or your student is hoping to visit a school, assume this is not possible for the time being unless the school’s website says otherwise. Check individual school admissions pages to find out when they anticipate reopening, or to research remote “visiting” options.


Test-optional growth

The test-optional wave that began over the last few years has certainly seen a rise from the  coronavirus. In one recent significant update, the University System of Georgia, comprising 26 public colleges and universities in the state, will not require the SAT or ACT for some fall 2020 applicants who meet other admissions requirements. See the full list of schools with test optional policies at FairTest.


Need more individualized advice?

If you have specific questions or want a personalized plan, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

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About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.