COVID-19 Impacts College Admissions Process for Current Uppers

For many years, the college admissions process for Andover students has followed a standard procedure. Starting at the beginning of Lower year, the College Counseling Office (CCO) assists students in researching and applying to prospective colleges. However, given the recent transition to remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain elements of the typical application process are projected to change for the Class of 2021.

According to Katherine Fritz, Assistant Director of College Counseling, one of the most prominent concerns arising from students has been the administration’s decision to transition from number grades to a pass/fail system to reduce stress. While Fritz acknowledged that colleges will receive one less term of number grades from Andover students, she has confidence in the flexibility of college admissions offices in evaluating student transcripts in the context of the situation.

Fritz said, “With regard to college and the college process, most 11th graders in the country are experiencing this paradigm. So, what I think the most important thing that we’re trying to share with students and families is that colleges are incredibly aware and incredibly forgiving of this new reality. Since every Andover student is going to have pass/fail grades, students will be read in the context of the school climate. This wouldn’t be new to colleges that we’ve worked with for a long time, as we’ve had situations where we’ve pivoted to allowing students to have pass/fail grades in the past.”

Rachel Lee ’21 expressed her concern of not being able to demonstrate her improvement throughout the course of the entirety of her Upper year due to the lack of numerical grades in the final term. Lee hopes that colleges will assess students based on a modified academic standard.

“I think for Uppers especially, this term was the last report card that colleges see before early admissions, so I think it was important to include it. I completely understand why they’re doing a pass/fail this term, but I am still sad that this was our last chance to show how much we’ve improved throughout the year and even throughout Andover,” said Lee.

Sean Logan, Dean of College Counseling, additionally noted that due to the recent cancellation of the March SAT and unclear testing schedules in the future, most colleges decided not to require standardized testing scores as part of the application. Logan believes that this decision will particularly impact prospective student athletes who were previously required to meet certain scores to be considered eligible for recruitment.

Logan said, “Every day I go into my email, and another college is messaging that they’re going to go test-optional, which simply means that the standardized testing piece of their process will be optional now. So if some students have taken the SAT or the ACT already, and they can send those along in their application, great. If they don’t, that’s okay.”

Logan continued, “Previously, for NCAA Division 1 athletes, you had to have a certain set of grades, certain test scores, and other requirements. However, they have just posted something saying they know there’s going to be a lot of kids with pass/fail grades, they are in the process of looking over the requirements. The New England Small College Association has also just gone test optional, so in terms of recruitment, there is no more testing involved in this year’s class. That’s going to be a very big change.”

Baron Abrishami ’21, a member of Andover Boys Lacrosse, believes that while optional tests can be beneficial to student athletes by allowing them to focus more on schoolwork and sports, the cancellation of the season hinders them from getting in touch with college coaches. Nonetheless, Abrishami plans on maintaining his lacrosse skills by staying active.

Abrishami said, “For student athletes, Upper Year is the most important time for students who wish to be recruited. For lacrosse, a lot of coaches will be coming to watch your games, or at least watch your game films and evaluate you. So now that the season is cancelled and with no film, my performance in summer travel teams will matter the most. Currently, I try to work out a lot indoors.”

Students such as Nolan Sun ’21 who are engaged in other extracurricular activities are attempting to continue their passion outside of school as well. As a leader of a philanthropy group named Save the Children Action Network on campus, Sun continues club activities by keeping in touch with other board members and participating in virtual advocacy summits.

Sun said, “For Saving the Children Action network, I’m still talking to the main organization in terms of what we can do in the near future. As of right now, I virtually keep in touch with club members and the board for potential opportunities. Also, there was supposed to be an advocacy summit hosted in [Washington D.C.] at the end of April. But with what is going on right now, I think the summit will be hosted virtually via Zoom.”

According to Fritz, the primary goal of the CCO is to support Uppers and meet them where they are in the college process. Instead of focusing on what they cannot control, Fritz advises Uppers to engage in their coursework, take care of themselves, and continue to find support in the CCO.

Fritz said, “In terms of the general programming for Uppers, we are continuing to do our group meetings. We actually sent one out last week, which was a recording of all of our office together on the screen sharing information. This is a reflection of how we work as a team in the CCO collaborating as a full office to bring the collective wisdom, energy, and heart to the Class of 2021 as a collective and individually. We will continue to develop programming as the Spring Term unfolds.”

Fritz continued, “While we recognize that this is a really unusual time, we are continuing to move along and take control of what students can do, which means virtual tours, virtual information sessions, and building thoughtful, balanced college lists heading into the summer.”