5C admissions offices go virtual, adjust admission policies

A white building has a "Sumner Hall Admissions" sign.
In light of the virtual semester, 5C admission offices connect with prospective students through video tours, information sessions and virtual fly-in programs. (Maddie Rubin-Charlesworth • The Student Life)

Admissions offices at the Claremont Colleges have revamped their offerings to connect with prospective students during the COVID-19 pandemic, including developing video tours, hosting virtual fly-in programs and changing application requirements.

The 5Cs are all test-optional for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, meaning that students are not required to submit standardized test scores, though scores will be considered in applications if submitted. 

Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College suspended testing requirements for one year. Harvey Mudd College will be test-optional for the next two years, after which the admissions department will consider making the change permanent. Scripps College became permanently test optional in March, and Pitzer College has been test-optional since 2003.

Pitzer is also considering becoming test blind for fall 2022 and “perhaps beyond,” Yvonne Berumen, Pitzer’s vice president of admission and financial aid, said via email. This switch would mean that the admissions department would not consider students’ test scores even if they were submitted.

In addition to nixing testing requirements, 5C admissions departments also said they recognized that the pandemic has impacted many aspects of prospective students’ academic and personal lives. The colleges have said they will be flexible and understanding with applications. 

In a statement from April 7, Thyra Briggs, HMC’s vice president for admission and financial aid, told HMC prospective students, “However your school decides to end this year — with or without traditional grades — you will not be at a disadvantage in our admission process.” 

At Pomona, the admissions office extended deadlines for applications, increased application fee waivers and “greatly” expanded ways for students and families to learn about Pomona virtually, Adam Sapp, the college’s director of admissions, said via email.

While students’ applications might look different than they have previously, admissions officers said they will still be able to evaluate applicants with a holistic approach. 

“I think all of the pieces that we have available to us will allow us to make good decisions with what we have,” Briggs said. “Essays will of course matter a good deal, but high school records will continue to matter the most, in whatever form we might be able to see it. Recommendations, virtual interviews, high school records — all of these will help us get a sense of who the student is.”

Additionally, the Common Application and Coalition Application both added a “COVID-19 Question,” which gives students the opportunity to tell colleges how they were impacted by the pandemic. 

“This particular question will help us understand how the pandemic may have impacted [students] physically, academically, personally and technologically, as well as how they may have grown as a result,” Berumen said. 

As admissions offices work to make enrollment for future classes as standard as possible, programming for prospective students has continued with certain adjustments. 

Fly-in programs, which provided students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to come to Claremont and engage in campus life, have been replaced with virtual programs at Pitzer, Mudd and Pomona. These programs allow prospective students to meet with current students, admissions staff and professors. 

Scripps admissions officers have been holding virtual events and interviews, with each staff member assigned to a region of the country or world. The admissions office has also been participating in various free virtual college fairs.

In addition to the multi-day programs, all five colleges are offering live virtual information sessions where students and families can learn about academics, student life and financial aid from admissions officers and current students. 

CMC, Pitzer and Pomona are also offering live virtual campus tours which are narrated by student tour guides. While Scripps and Mudd do not have live tours, they do offer asynchronous options for exploring the campuses. 

“In many ways, we tried to recreate the experience of students visiting Pitzer, the admission office and chatting with students and staff,” Berumen said. 

Admissions officers acknowledged that there have been benefits to changes made during the pandemic.

I’m hoping that the online process will provide a larger number of students access to opportunities to learn more about HMC without feeling like they have to visit,” Briggs said.  

And while the 5Cs will not be online forever, Sapp believes that some of these changes are here to stay.

“I think we will take a serious look at making some of the temporary tools we developed this year permanent,” Sapp said. 

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