VP for Enrollment Greg Zaiser joins in nationwide COVID-19 message to students

Vice President for Enrollment Greg Zaiser has joined more than 300 college admissions leaders across the nation in endorsing a statement of values and support for students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As colleges and universities across the country prepare for the return of students in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Vice President for Enrollment Greg Zaiser and admissions leaders nationwide are delivering an important message to students.

Zaiser was one of 315 admissions leaders to endorse a statement about the COVID-19 pandemic and what college admissions offices value and expect – and don’t expect – from students during the pandemic. The effort is part of an initiative by the Making Caring Common Project, focused on changing the message prospective students and parents receive about the expectations of college admissions offices.

The message, “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19,” targets high school students and their parents concerned about the expectations of college admissions offices during this global pandemic. The statement is meant to address questions and misconceptions surrounding COVID-19 and college admissions. It also aims to help each institution highlight its commitment to equity and to encourage self-care, balance, meaningful learning and care for others.

“There are so many serious things going on in the world today,” Zaiser said. “The college search and application process can already feel overwhelming under traditional circumstances, so we want to make certain students know we are listening, we understand and we care. If we can alleviate at least a little of the anxiety for students, that’s our goal. That’s why we believe so strongly in this initiative.”

The statement details the five traits and actions enrollment leaders value in prospective students during the pandemic: self-care, academic work, service and contributions to others, family contributions and extracurricular and summer activities.

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Proving a commitment to each of those values, Elon is piloting a change to its undergraduate admission process to give prospective students – beginning with the Class of 2025 – a choice about whether to include scores from the SAT or ACT as part of their applications for admission.

“By becoming test-optional, the university is eliminating a barrier that many qualified students now face because of not being able to take the SAT,” Zaiser said in the May 18 announcement. “Making this change will accommodate students during a period of considerable uncertainty. Further, it refines the dynamic process the university uses to select students who are best positioned for success.”

Learn more about each of the values mentioned in the college admissions deans statement below.

What We Care About in This Time of Crisis: A Collective Statement From College Admissions Deans

As admission and enrollment leaders, we recognize that we and the institutions we represent send signals that can shape students’ priorities and experiences throughout high school. This collective statement seeks to clarify what we value in applicants during this time of COVID-19. We are keenly aware that students across the country and the world are experiencing many uncertainties and challenges. We primarily wish to underscore our commitment to equity and to encourage in students self-care, balance, meaningful learning, and care for others. More specifically, we value the following:

  1. Self-care. Self-care is of high importance, especially in times of crisis. We recognize that many students, economically struggling and facing losses and hardships of countless kinds, are simply seeking to get by. We also recognize that this time is stressful and demanding for a wide range of students for many different reasons. We encourage all students to be gentle with themselves during this time.
  2. Academic work. Your academic engagement and work during this time matters to us, but given the circumstances of many families, we recognize that you may face obstacles to academic work. We will assess your academic achievements in the context of these obstacles. In addition, we will assess your academic achievements mainly based on your academic performance before and after this pandemic. No student will be disadvantaged because of a change in commitments or a change in plans because of this outbreak, their school’s decisions about transcripts, the absence of AP or IB tests, their lack of access to standardized tests (although many of the colleges represented here don’t require these tests), or their inability to visit campus. We will also view students in the context of the curriculum, academic resources, and supports available to them.
  3. Service and contributions to others. We value contributions to one’s communities for those who are in a position to provide these contributions. We recognize that while many students are not in this position because of stresses and demands, other students are looking for opportunities to be engaged and make a difference. This pandemic has created a huge array of needs, whether for tutoring, contact tracing, support for senior citizens, or assistance with food delivery. We view responding to these needs as one valuable way that students can spend their time during this pandemic.We also value forms of contribution that are unrelated to this pandemic, such as working to register voters, protect the environment, combat racial injustice and inequities or stop online harassment among peers. Our interest is not in whether students created a new project or demonstrated leadership during this period. We, emphatically, do not seek to create a competitive public service “Olympics” in response to this pandemic. What matters to us is whether students’ contribution or service is authentic and meaningful to them and to others, whether that contribution is writing regular notes to frontline workers or checking in with neighbors who are isolated. We will assess these contributions and service in the context of the obstacles students are facing. We also care about what students have learned from their contributions to others about themselves, their communities, and/or their country (Please see Turning the Tide for additional information about the kinds of contributions and service we value). No student will be disadvantaged during this time who is not in a position to provide these contributions. We will review these students for admissions in terms of other aspects of their applications.
  4. Family contributions. Far too often there is a misperception that high-profile, brief forms of service tend to “count” in admissions while family contributions—which are often deeper and more time-consuming and demanding—do not. Many students may be supervising younger siblings, for example, or caring for sick relatives or working to provide family income, and we recognize that these responsibilities may have increased during these times. We view substantial family contributions as very important, and we encourage students to report them in their applications. It will only positively impact the review of their application during this time.
  5. Extracurricular and summer activities. No student will be disadvantaged for not engaging in extracurricular activities. We also understand that many plans for summer have been impacted by this pandemic, and students will not be disadvantaged for lost possibilities for involvement. Potential internship opportunities, summer jobs, camp experiences, classes, and other types of meaningful engagement have been cancelled or altered. We have never had specific expectations for any one type of extracurricular activity or summer experience and realize that each student’s circumstances allow for different opportunities. We have always considered work or family responsibilities as valuable ways of spending one’s time, and this is especially true at this time.

We will gather information from schools themselves about curriculum and academic resources and supports, but we encourage students to communicate any factors specific to their circumstances that impeded their academic performance. Those factors might include, for example, lack of access to the internet, no quiet place to study, or the various family responsibilities described above. We encourage students to describe concretely how any of these circumstances have negatively affected their academic performance or ability to engage in activities that matter to them. It is helpful to know, for example, how much time students spent per week taking on a family responsibility, such as taking care of a sick relative. This information will be treated completely confidentially.

Both the Common Application and the Coalition for College application provide opportunities for students to describe how they have been impacted by the pandemic.