Last week GCP co-hosted a webinar on the current state of college admissions featuring a top-notch expert panel.  If you missed part 1 of the highlights you can find them here.  We continue with part 2 of the highlights of this informative session.


  • Grading:
    • College admissions officers understand that high schools have handled Spring semester grading in a variety of ways (e.g., mandatory or optional pass/fail) and no student will be disadvantaged by any of the grading policies.  UPenn’s Dean Furda has seen transcripts from transfer students which include an explanation of their “Covid-19 grading policies”, so schools are already figuring out ways to making this information clear.
    •  In answer to my question of how students will be assessed, given the testing, grading and activity limitations this virus has created, Columbia’s Dean Marinaccio explained: “The first thing we do when we open up an application is we say ‘Who is this student? What are the opportunities that have been afforded to that individual and what advantage have they taken of these opportunities?  And we remain committed to that.  But we will just have more contextualization to do…and we’ll just spend longer on these applications trying to understand that context and understand the opportunities students have had.  [W]e will do that, in order to make the correct decision for our institutions and to be fair to the applicants.”
    • Dean Furda reminded parents that students still have a lot of high school grades and activities other than from this semester, and that student athletes have data from past seasons to help tell their athletic stories.  Students  should focus on what matters to them now and make sure that their applications reflect this.
    • College Board CEO David Coleman added that students should take this time to cultivate their passions, whatever they may be, and however they have altered by Covid-19.  He cautions students to focus on doing a few things that really matter to them well versus trying to dive into a long list of activities and interests.


  • Financial Aid:
    • David Coleman began the discussion by describing the  College Board Opportunity Scholarships, which awarded 25 students $40,000 each for their college education.  Students qualified for the scholarships by taking 6 steps to financially prepare and plan for college.  The goal of the scholarship program is to help students use all available resources (with help from the College Board) to find as many scholarships as possible.  The 2021 scholarship application process will open in October 2020.  This is one of the many ways that the College Board wants to encourage parents and students to focus early on financial planning for college.  He also highly recommends that parents use the college net price calculator at their free college search site, Big Future.
    • Dean Marinaccio wanted parents and students to remember that college financial aid officers are counselors, who are trained and very willing to work with students and families, especially in changing circumstances like the present ones.


  • Starting the College Process:
    • Where to begin?  Build a college list with Big Future.  David Coleman suggested students spend time learning about colleges and encouraged them to consider applying to several reach schools.
    • Dean Furda mentioned that in the most recent post on his blog Page 217 lays out how Penn and colleges in general are encouraging students to explore colleges virtually.
    • Coleman also reminded parents that it is important for students to continue developing strong bonds with caring adults, especially teachers and mentors, while they are learning from home.  He suggested this principally so that students can benefit from these relationships, but added that it will be helpful to have the perspectives of these adults reflected in recommendation letters.
    • As difficult as these circumstances are, Coleman expressed his hope that parents will be able to encourage their children to “find time to breathe” and grow as people.  It may make them better college applicants, but more importantly, it will certainly help them to discover interesting and worthwhile things about themselves.


What a great webinar!! To watch it, click this link: College in the Time of Covid-19 Webinar and enter the password 4c.R0#7X.  Thanks again to all who attended and a special thanks to our wonderful panelists!