Courtney Smith Nov 10, 2020

COVID-19 affects grad school applicants


Each year around this time, college juniors and seniors all across the country are working diligently on their applications to a variety of different graduate programs. However, COVID-19 impacts many different aspects of the application process. Applicants should expect to be highly flexible throughout their application process, as it could look very different from previous years.

“Many interviews are now done online and campus visitations are virtual,” said Dr. John Rowe, chair of the biology department. “Many graduate programs, as well as med and vet schools, have been emphasizing student experiences and personal attributes rather than basing admissions solely on transcripts and standardized tests.”

One major aspect of the graduate program application process affected by COVID-19 involves the various entrance exams for different programs, such as the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT. Many graduate program applicants have been preparing for these exams throughout the entirety of their academic careers.

“Some graduate programs seem to be following the expanding number of undergraduate institutions, like ours, seem to be dropping entrance exams such as SAT and ACT at least for the time-being,” said Rowe. “The Educational Testing Service has modified its formatting for at-home administration of the GRE and some graduate programs have waived or dropped the requirement altogether. Some med schools are granting leniency to applicants who have not submitted their MCAT scores in a timely manner given test date cancellations while some programs are not requiring the MCAT.”

Many juniors and seniors may be grappling with the decision of whether to apply to graduate schools now in accordance to pre-pandemic plans, or wait to apply after the pandemic ends.

“There is some evidence that suggests that some students may delay their application to graduate programs until they can enter under ‘more normal’ and certain times,” said Rowe. “I saw a survey that indicated that about 50% of potential grad student applicants were considering delaying their application to grad school, but many students will continue on as planned prior to COVID…time will tell.”

Students who are on the fence about their decision to apply to graduate school now or postpone until later have a lot to consider, especially as the application process requires a lot from applicants.

“Before embarking on the strenuous and time-consuming application process, however, students should look into their program of interest in order to glean as much information as possible about entrance standards, dates, and deadlines, said Rowe. “There could be some

information on predicted application rates that could be useful when deciding on whether to apply or not.”

Regardless of whether students decide to apply to their graduate programs of choice now or take a rain check for after the pandemic, they should remain vigilant in achieving their current academic goals and striving to do their very best during these difficult times.

“Becoming acclimated to our new learning environment is critical for both students and faculty alike,” said Rowe. “I think that students should embrace these times as we pursue new directions in learning. It is quite possible that portions of graduate school learning will occur online in the near future and students should be ready for that reality. Also, professional schools, internships, shadowing and service opportunities are difficult to land but should be actively pursued when possible.”

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