Class of 2021 College Admissions: What Colleges Want You to Know

class of 2021
It’s your turn, seniors.

The country has focused a lot of attention on the class of 2020 in the last six months. The coronavirus pandemic changed everything for their last semester of high school. And they’re heading off to a different kind of college experience. So now, we need to start looking at the next admissions cycle, and over 300 college admissions officials are doing just that. Because the class of 2021 college admissions cycle is going to be a “new normal” too. We’re still dealing with COVID-19, and economic and financial issues as well. That makes for an added layer of stress on high school seniors.

College admissions officials are very aware of that.

Collaborating with the Making Caring Common project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, college admissions professionals have jointly issued “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19.” The statement focuses on five points students need to keep in mind this year: Self-care, academics, service, families, and extracurricular activities.

Five Points… In Order

Here are some distilled excerpts on each of the five areas from the statement. Remember these as you attempt to tackle your senior year and applications! Officials are on your side!

Self-Care: “We recognize that many students, economically struggling and facing losses and hardships of countless kinds, are simply seeking to get by. We also recognize that this time is stressful and demanding for a wide range of students for many different reasons. We encourage all students to be gentle with themselves during this time.”

Academics: “Your academic engagement and work during this time matters to us, but given the circumstances of many families, we recognize that you may face obstacles to academic work. We will assess your academic achievements in the context of these obstacles.”

Service: “No student will be disadvantaged during this time who is not in a position to provide these contributions. We will review these students for admissions in terms of other aspects of their applications.”

Families: “Far too often there is a misperception that high-profile, brief forms of service tend to “count” in admissions while family contributions—which are often deeper and more time-consuming and demanding—do not. We view substantial family contributions as very important, and we encourage students to report them in their applications. It will only positively impact the review of their application during this time.”

Extracurricular activities: “No student will be disadvantaged for not engaging in extracurricular activities. We also understand that many plans for summer have been impacted by this pandemic. We have always considered work or family responsibilities as valuable ways of spending one’s time, and this is especially true at this time.”

Individual Statements

Inside Higher Ed spoke with several college admissions officials about why they signed the statement.

“For many students, the interference of COVID-19 doesn’t interrupt that anxiety circuit, it powers it. The point of this deans’ statement is to explicitly state that we understand, that we already apply context to our review, and that we will apply flexibility to meet that context in application review. I hope that our written statement is reassuring and can reduce anxiety, ” says E. Whitney Soule, senior vice president and dean of admissions and student aid at Bowdoin University.

Rachelle Hernandez, senior vice provost for enrollment management and student success at the University of Texas at Austin, said, “We don’t want students worrying that limitations to their activities, or other opportunities due to the pandemic, will negatively impact them or our consideration of their application. We hope the statement is encouraging to high school students and their families.”

Proactively addressing the anxiety will hopefully do a good deal to calm students’ nerves. We discuss some worries in our article “Coronavirus Impact: Why the Class of 2021 Should Be Worried.”

It’s a new landscape out there, and everyone knows it.

Download a PDF of the statement yourself, and see which colleges and universities signed it. You can also read more at Inside Higher Ed’s article about the class of 2021 college admissions statement.

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