Fall 2021 Admissions Policies Turned Upside Down

With many different colleges amending admissions policies to be test-optional, no longer requiring SAT or ACT scores to be submitted with first year applications, as well as many K-12 schools and community colleges shifting grading policies to universal Pass/No Pass or expanding Pass/No Pass options for students at least for the Spring 2020 semester, the Fall 2021 college admissions cycle is setting up to be radically different than any previous admissions cycles of recent memory.

For Fall 2021, GPA cannot be considered as objective of a measurement of academic achievement, given many school administrators hastily implemented Pass/No Pass marks for the Spring 2020 semester. Subsequently, those students who were gaining academic momentum with maturity and experience, which often peaks for many high school students as a Junior, will have their performance discounted during the admissions evaluation process. 

In adopting Pass/No Pass, administrators also mandated that student’s grades could not decline below the level on the date when school campuses closed, plus eliminated weighted Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors grades, further diminishing students’ academic performance as demonstrated by GPA. In rationalizing that an anomalous single semester out of eight high school semesters will not materially change a student’s overall academic track record, they brought into question the necessity of an eight semester high school education. 

If a single semester can be so easily dismissed, why do students need to attend high school for eight semesters? Early Action and Early Decision admissions already effectively neuter the senior year, making the spring semester more academically irrelevant and more socially relevant, once students are admitted to college in December. If they so readily dismiss and diminish the importance of a semester in the more critical junior year, why not challenge the premise of an eight semester high school education—although a topic beyond the scope of this post?

Furthermore, since SAT and ACT scores aren’t required and the dates of future SAT or ACT exams in question, applicants who can demonstrate ability through standardized tests, a commonly accepted objective measurement of aptitude, lose the opportunity to portray their academic acumen in an application for admissions. 

The traditional objective markers of admissions, grades and test scores if required at all, are now compromised for Fall 2021 admissions, obviously replaced with more subjective evaluations, not often utilized by admissions officers at colleges that seek a balance between subjectivity and objectivity or are strictly objective in their evaluations. For students who already intended to apply to colleges with more subjective evaluations, they are prepared to be fairly evaluated in a subjective process. However, for students who intended to distinguish themselves with objective academic measurements, like GPA and test scores, a strategy executed over many years, they may be disproportionately disadvantaged by the changes to the admissions process for Fall 2021. 

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly so clients succeed. Contact her at (916) 769-6092 or