Colleges and universities relax admissions requirements

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Date: April 9, 2020

Contact: Michael Reilly
Executive Director, AACRAO

Colleges and universities relax admissions requirements, plan for fall classes online, in light of COVID-19
Institutions also anticipate a decline in enrollment


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Colleges and universities are modifying admissions practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the second Snapshot Impact Survey published by the American Association for Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).

As demonstrated in AACRAO’s first practice impact survey, “Impact of COVID-19 on Grading, Transcript and Commencement Practices,” published April 3, many higher education institutions have had to make changes to grading practices to account for the unprecedented disruption to the spring semester, shifting to pass/fail or other non-letter grading systems.

High schools across the country have done the same. And the move away from conventional grading and documentation makes it almost impossible for applicants to comply with standard college admissions practices regarding official transcripts and learning records.

Changes to admissions practices: Pass/fail and unofficial transcripts
Many colleges and universities are meeting that challenge by relaxing their documentation requirements for admissions, according to AACRAO’s Snapshot Impact Survey Report, “Undergraduate Enrollment Indicators and Impact on Admissions Practice.”

The survey asked about enrollment indicators for summer and fall; course delivery method changes for fall; and admissions practice changes, including admissions decisions, course placement, orientation, advising, and registration. It was the second in a series of rapidly-developed and deployed practice impact surveys intended to inform guidance on a range of topics related to the impact of COVID-19 on higher education operations.

Open for two business days, the survey received 262 responses. Of survey respondents, 94 percent have made or are considering making changes to admissions practices in response to COVID-19. Additionally:

  • 62 percent of respondents will now allow, or are considering allowing, pass (P) and other non-qualitative grades on high school transcripts to satisfy admissions requirements
  • 69 percent have extended, or are considering extending, the enrollment deposit deadline
  • 65 percent have extended, or are considering extending, the deadline for the submission of a final high school transcript
  • 53 percent will now use, or are considering using, an unofficial high school transcript for admissions decisions
Fall enrollment down; online classes up
According to the report, key summer and fall enrollment indicators suggest a decline in enrollment for new, continuing, and transfer students. However, this may be attributed to factors other than the COVID-19 pandemic, such as fewer high school graduates.

Many enrolled students can expect more online courses than usual; the report indicates that 58 percent of respondents are considering or have already decided to remain fully online for fall 2020; 62 percent are considering decreasing, or have decreased, the number of in-person courses for fall 2020; and 73% are considering increasing, or have increased, the number of online and/or remote courses for fall 2020.

Results of these impact surveys demonstrate the wide-ranging and dramatic impacts the pandemic is having on higher education institutions across the country. AACRAO plans to roll out new rapid-response practice surveys weekly as the higher education community navigates this pandemic.


AACRAO is a non-profit, voluntary, professional association of more than 11,000 higher education professionals representing approximately 2,600 institutions in more than 40 countries. Its commitment to the professional development of its members includes best practice guidance on admissions strategies to meet institutional diversity objectives, delivery of academic programs in innovative ways to meet the needs of a changing student body, and exemplary approaches to student retention and completion.