COVID and the College Admissions Process

Photo taken by Photography Editor Rebecca Burks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has irreversibly changed many facets of our lives. As young adults, we can remember the stress of the college admission process. For months, we wrote essays, researched degree programs, and even toured a few campuses. All of these processes have changed now that the pandemic is here. Currently, students applying to college face stressors on all sides, including sickness, questions about the future, and any of the other consequences that 2020 has had on students’ life. So, how has Hendrix responded to the pandemic, and what steps is the admission office taking to ensure equity this year?

One area that’s changing is the college’s ACT/SAT test requirement. According to Jeremy Dickerson, the Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Director of Admission: “The College adopted a test-optional policy in the summer of 2019 to take effect for students entering in 2020. We wanted students to seek fit and find joy when choosing Hendrix rather than worrying about high-stakes tests… This spring as students across the globe had their ACT/SAT exams canceled, it was very gratifying to tell students they did not need to worry about how that might affect their admission to Hendrix.”

These are comforting words for prospective Hendrix students who need not fear the impact of COVID-19 on their post-high school plans. However, for the approximately 200 colleges that accept less than 25% of their applicants, lower-income students are inherently disadvantaged this year. Highly prestigious colleges have “feeder” schools, which admissions counselors look to for nearly automatic admittances. Schools that get thousands of applications must be just as selective as usual this year. Because so many extracurriculars and tests have been canceled, the students that go to these “feeder” schools (typically elite private schools), have an advantage because of the school name on their application. 

Lucy Pfeiffer, an Mt. Juliet High School student applying to Harvard, says that the new standards have put even more pressure on her to be successful. “There’s a lot of pressure to apply Early Decision. My high school counselor told us that early decision applications are down this year because families don’t have the means to commit $60-70k a year with the economic turmoil occurring right now. Because of this, we’re being encouraged to apply early if we can, to show our commitment to the school. COVID has just added a lot of factors to worry about.” Unfortunately for Lucy and all of the other students applying to college this year, these added stressors exacerbate an already stressful process. Prospective Hendrix students need not worry about showing interest; Hendrix College does not offer the binding Early Decision round of admissions. Instead, Hendrix offers Early Action. This type of admissions allows a student to receive their admissions decision early without committing to the college. Students who know that they will need to compare financial aid offers can take advantage of Early Action without the stress of being bound by its decision. 

Thankfully, Hendrix students have completed that tumultuous part of growing up. Despite that, it is reassuring to hear that the admissions office at our college is doing everything that they can to make the application process simple and equitable for prospective students. 

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