Tulane admissions adjusts expectations, resources for Class of 2025 applicants

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Mackenzie Bookamer, Contributing Reporter

Fall marks the onset of the college application season for high school seniors, and much like other events this past year, the college admissions process will look different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In years past, students have had the opportunity to attend admissions events on the college campus they were planning to apply to, but mandates by state and local governments in response to COVID-19 have prevented this from happening. 

In light of this, the Office of Undergraduate Admission at Tulane has developed a plethora of virtual events prospective applicants can attend to gain an understanding of what Tulane is like. Some events put on by the office are virtual tours, trivia nights related to the college application process and “Ask the Dean,” where applicants ask questions directly to Satyajit Dattagupta, vice president of enrollment management and dean of admission. 

“The only silver lining about COVID is that it’s kind of forced us to be a little more creative with our virtual [offerings], whereas we often kind of always fall back on ‘come here, meet us, meet the campus’ and while that is still true, we’re meeting thousands of students virtually that we typically wouldn’t have,” Dattagupta said. 

Dattagupta also said that he realizes the experience of physically being on campus cannot be mimicked but ensures the admissions office is supplementing this the best they can. 

“The honest truth is that, I think applicants are very scared right now; they don’t know what college will look like in the future, a lot of them had thought they’d visit campus and be out at these events, so we’re trying to meet students where they are and trying to show some empathy and work with them,” said Dattagupta. 

In March, College Board announced they were cancelling SAT administrations in the spring and early summer due to the threat posed by COVID-19, which left little time for students to take the test and send their scores to universities. To account for this, Tulane University has decided to go test-optional for the 2020-2021 application

While Tulane has taken away the requirement of standardized tests for this application year, it has introduced an optional virtual interview. Through this, applicants can interview with admissions counselors directly, something that has not been offered in years past. The Admissions Office has already conducted over 5,000 interviews with applicants, Dattagupta said. 

One area of the application that has been emphasized in the past is demonstrated interest. In previous years, attending a tour on campus has been an indicator of demonstrated interest, but this expectation has been removed in light of COVID-19. 

“Demonstrated interest for us was heavily weighed on the ‘Why Tulane’ essay, so we’re saying that that continues to be very important,” Dattagupta said. “We are asking students to interview with us if they can. There’s no expectation that anyone visits or even comes to campus.”

With these two large proponents of the application altered, an applicant’s high school transcript will be a more valuable asset than before, Dattagupta said. 

“That [the transcript] has traditionally shown to be a greater predictor of academic success in college than almost any other piece … of the application, so it will hold more weight than it ever has in the past,” said Dattagupta. 

He continued that the admissions office realizes students’ last two semesters have been changed due to COVID-19 and is taking into account that schools went virtual, shifted to pass/fail systems of grading and put college counseling on the backseat. The admissions office is reviewing all applications with these constraints in mind. 

“Assume that our office will review every application with a COVID lens, and [the applicants] don’t have to tell us that they’ve been impacted by COVID unless something really has happened with them that’s different than others,” Dattagupta said. 

With the uncertainty of college this fall, many colleges saw an influx of students taking gap years, deferring the start of their first semester to the fall of 2021. This increased percentage is not something seen at Tulane, as only 15 more students took gap years in the class of 2020 than years past. 

“It’s really not atypically higher, so that typically makes our students feel very relieved, because the seniors are worried that their spots were taken away, and they’re not,” Dattagupta said. 

While the college application process will certainly be changed and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, high school seniors can expect to see continuity from previous years. 

“You know, a lot has changed, but a lot hasn’t, right, so what hasn’t changed is that there’s no perfect college, there is no perfect place, but there’s a perfect fit,” Dattagupta said. “I’ve been telling students to actually invest in these virtual events and come and listen to college counselors, do these virtual tours. My only advice is to not feel like students have to visit or have to meet people on campus because if they’re not comfortable, they shouldn’t do it … so have faith, be patient, and don’t take risks you don’t have to.”