315 college deans detail what they are looking for from applicants during the pandemic

A Harvard University graduate wears a mask on campus.
Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has forced students, and colleges, to adapt. Campuses have been closed, classes have been moved online and the admissions system has radically changed

The coronavirus pandemic has made in-person standardized testing difficult (if not impossible) for many college applicants and colleges across the country are pausing standardized testing requirements — including all eight Ivy League schools and the entire University of California system.  

And with limited access to traditional extracurriculars such as sports and school clubs, prospective college students are wondering: what will colleges expect from me?

To answer this question, The Harvard Graduate School of Education's Making Caring Common project coordinated with admissions leaders to detail what exactly should be considered in the application process during the semesters ahead. 

The resulting statement has been endorsed by leaders at more than 315 institutions across the United States, including all eight Ivy League Schools, prestigious technical universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, large state universities such as the University of Michigan, historically black colleges and universities such as Howard University and historically women's colleges such as Wellesley College.

These admissions leaders agreed they will value, among other things, five aspects in the upcoming admissions year: self-care; academic work; service and contributions to others; family contributions; and extracurricular and summer activities.

"We are keenly aware that students across the country and the world are experiencing many uncertainties and challenges," reads the statement. "We primarily wish to underscore our commitment to equity and to encourage in students self-care, balance, meaningful learning and care for others."

Here is the full statement detailing how admissions officers define these characteristics and what they are looking for in college applicants:

The letter also emphasizes that students should communicate if and how the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted them, including if they have not had access to the internet or a quiet place to study or if they have had increased family responsibilities such as taking care of sick relatives, supervising younger siblings or working to provide family income.

"We encourage students to describe concretely how any of these circumstances have negatively affected their academic performance or ability to engage in activities that matter to them," reads the statement. "This information will be treated completely confidentially."

Though each school addresses admissions slightly differently, both the Common Application and the Coalition for College application will give college applicants the opportunity to lay out these details. 

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