Thanks to all who attended the GCP/Hunter College Continuing Education webinar College Admissions in the Time of Covid-19, which was held on May 6th.  A great many parents registered and turned out for this webinar to hear the latest on college admissions news from our panel of experts:

David Coleman, CEO of the College Board

Eric J. Furda,  Dean of Admissions, University of Pennsylvania

Jessica Marinaccio, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Columbia University

I moderated this hour long discussion and incorporated into it many of the great questions sent in ahead of time by the attendees.  Here is part 1 of the highlights:

  • When Will Students Be Able To Return to College?
    • Unclear at this time.  This is actively being considered by colleges across the country; the residential nature of colleges and universities makes this especially challenging.
    • the safety of students and faculty is paramount
    • at some point the colleges will have to make a decision with imperfect information
    • community can be built with the class even before they meet on campus, through virtual outreach and social media groups


  • What About a Gap Year?
    • Many incoming college freshmen students may be considering a gap year because they don’t want to start their college years remotely.
    • Students should check college websites for deadlines; although colleges understand students need time to figure this out, the schools will need to enforce the deadline to ensure they know the size of their class.
    •  Penn will go to the waitlist to fill the class if necessary; however, students offered a place in the class off of the waitlist will not be able to take a gap year.
    • Dean Marinaccio asks “What are you going to do in that gap year?”  She suggests that the circumstances that prevent students from returning to school will also limit their opportunities to do much that will allow them to stretch and grow, which are generally goals in a gap year.   A gap year, as tempting as it may sound now as an alternative to starting school remotely, may just not be worth it.
    • If lots of students opt for a gap year, how will this impact the current juniors who will be applying for the fall?  The schools will have to leave space for the deferred students.  Dean Marinaccio noted that they did not want to make it harder to get into college, but she acknowledged they can’t over enroll, and colleges will just have to see what the numbers look like next year.


  •   Standardized Testing 
    • Per College Board CEO David Coleman, students will be able to take the  SAT this fall.  They hope to be able to administer it in person, if proper precautions can be taken so that it is safe for all, but if this is not possible they will provide it online.
    • The College Board is administering AP tests online this week.  This is a very challenging process for all but the College Board has been doing lots of outreach with families to ensure that students have devices and sufficient bandwidth access to take the test.  They will do this with the SAT as well if they have to be moved online.
    • Coleman reminded the audience that testing was a very small part of the larger picture of college admissions.  Colleges are very aware of the compromised circumstances under which student are currently operating.  Admissions officers are highly skilled at looking at applications within a variety of contexts, so parents should NOT worry that their child will be disadvantaged because of the impact of COVID-19 on their Spring 2020 (and potentially their Fall 2020) academic record.
    • The College Board teamed up with Khan Academy to offer personalized standardized testing practice free of charge to all students. The Board recommends that students put in at least 10 hours of practice for the exam using the Khan Academy approach.  Students who practice this way have seen an average gain of 120 points on their test scores.
    • Testing impact on Early Decision:  The College Board is committed to make testing available such that students such that all students will have the chance to take the test twice before the Early Decision (ED) deadline.  Dean Furda suggested that with so many unknowns at this point, it is quite possible that deadlines like the one for ED may need to be moved as well.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of the webinar highlights, which will include the panelists’ perspectives on the grading changes, the impact on Financial aid, what really matters in the application process now, and how to help your child focus on what they need to be doing now to find their college.

You can watch the entire webinar here.  The password is 4c.R0#7X.

This was a very informative session for all.  Stay tuned for Part 2 highlights.