letters spelling out time for a change

In this complex time of high school and college closures, distance learning, standardized testing cancellations, financial upheaval, and great uncertainty, our team predicts that many colleges and universities will adjust their admission requirements for students applying to enroll in the fall of 2021. We anticipate that many colleges will become test optional (at least temporarily) and are keeping a close eye on changes to admissions practices and policies. Subscribe to the blog to stay in the know.

On April 1, the University of California, one of the largest university systems in the U.S., announced changes in their admissions requirements due to the disruption in schooling and standardized testing caused by COVID-19. The UC system is sensitive to the added stress on families right now, and decided on these temporary adjustments to alleviate college admission-related anxiety.  

Although the UC press release and FAQ are incredibly helpful and we encourage you to read them in full, here is a quick summary of what the new policy means for students based on their current year in high school, as well as those applying as transfers:

All current high school students:

  • Letter grades are no longer required for A-G courses for classes taken during the winter, spring, or summer of 2020 (if schools are closed and/or doing distance learning beyond this period, we suspect this flexibility will be extended). Essentially, this means that it is okay if classes are administered Pass/Fail or Credit/No Credit, but students should still pursue as well-rounded and rigorous an education as possible. Current 10th and 11th graders may want to explore options for graded summer classes accepted by the high school in order to have more graded classes reflected in your UC GPA.
  • The UC system will still award credit for 2020 AP exam scores of 3, 4, or 5 as in past years despite the College Board changes to the spring 2020 exam content and online format.

Current High School Seniors Admitted for Fall 2020 (congrats!!!):

  • Although the deadline to accept an offer of admission from a UC campus is still May 1, students can contact the office of admission to request an extension if they are facing extenuating circumstances and need more time to make a decision.
  • An offer of admission will not be rescinded if a high school is not able to submit the final high school transcript by the July 1 deadline. If a student’s school will submit the transcript after July 1, ask the counseling office/registrar to email AskUC@ucop.edu with the high school name, College Board code, and the date transcripts are expected to be available. A committed student’s spot will be held until the first day of class even if the high school transcript is late (it must arrive by first day of class, however).
  • If a family’s financial circumstances have been adversely impacted by the economic impacts of COVID-19, contact the office of financial aid and the UC campuses will work with families this summer to determine eligiblity for additional financial aid.

Current High School Juniors (applying for fall of 2021):

  • Standardized testing (SAT or ACT) will not be required. You read that right! With that said, if a student has already taken the exam and love their scores, send them. As of now, the UC’s are requiring the essay or writing section if you submit scores, but the UC Board of Regents is voting in May on possible changes to their standardized testing policies – keep an eye out for updates on our blog.
  • The UC will continue to conduct a holistic application review and strong scores could help! Not sending scores, however, will not be held against any applicant or impact admission chances. As with all test-optional colleges and universities, it is important to note that if test scores are not submitted, the high school transcript becomes even more important in assessing academic readiness (rigorous and well-rounded curriculum, strong grades if classes are being graded, etc.).

Transfer Students:

  • Temporary elimination of the cap on the number of transferable units with Pass/No Pass grades (akin to high school students, it is okay if current college classes will not have letter grades due to the complexities of online and distance learning).
  • If classes required for transfer this term were canceled, students can instead take them this summer.

Now what? 

  • Keep an eye on standardized testing cancelations and offerings as strong scores can still be helpful in the application process.
  • If students want to enhance the education that is available through the high school and take classes acknowledged by the UC system, check out UC Scout as an affordable, online, graded option that can enhance the rigor of curriculum and keep academic skills sharp during this extended period of distance learning and school closures.
  • Keep an eye on the UC website for more announcements and changes.
  • Reach out to the UC campuses with questions.

Remember: All applicants are in this together, and the UC will take the impact of COVID-19 into consideration and continue to update policies as needed.

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Written by Sara Calvert-Kubrom
Sara Calvert-Kubrom is a member of College Coach's team of college admissions consultants and a former admissions officer at Lewis & Clark College and leader of the N.U.in Program at Northeastern University. Visit our website to learn more about Sara Calvert-Kubrom.