DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – With students facing a variety of challenges last year due to COVID-19, some colleges and universities are shifting their focus from more traditional criteria, to ones that show grit and personality throughout the pandemic. 

Jen McCamis, interim chief admissions and recruitment officer at Wright State University, said staff is looking at students holistically. That typically includes grades, coursework, recommendations and extracurriculars. But this year, it also involves the ways in which applicants have responded to COVID-19.”

“How did they help out at home during COVID? How did they get involved in their community? And what were the opportunities at the school to really get involved to show that grit showed that determination?, posed McCamis. “And sometimes it’s just talking about how you just worked really hard during the school year.”

She said with many students being forced to learn in non-traditional settings, they’ve also decided  to forego certain testing requirements. 

“We at Wright State will be test-optional this year for our admission policy,” she said, “which means students can choose to send ACT or SAT scores, and they still qualify for scholarships even if they don’t send their test scores.” 

Matt Dearden, vice president of enrollment at Cedarville University said their admissions staff has taken a similar approach. 

“I’d say the operative question that we’re asking of students right now is, how did you deal with the hand you were dealt. And for many students, it was a bad hand this past year. Maybe they didn’t have in-person classes, you know, maybe they weren’t able to play sports like they thought they’d be able to, But what did they do with what they had?”

Dearden said he anticipates nearly 80 to 90 percent of colleges and universities have moved to a test-optional application. A University of Dayton spokesperson said they are included in that number, working to ensure students are not disadvantaged in the admissions process due to the impact of COVID-19.

But McCamis added one way prospective students can make their applications stand out is to look to their bright futures for inspiration.

“Sell your positive experiences and talk about what you’re optimistic for,” she said. “I think that optimism is something that we’re all looking for and striving for.”

The best way to find out more about admissions requirements at your choice schools is to visit their websites or talk to financial aid officers.