How Has COVID-19 Affected Universities Admissions?

JOSE CARRERA Jun. 11, 2020
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Normalcy here in Abu Dhabi, UAE, United States or anywhere globally for that matter has been affected by the spread of coronavirus and its associated disease, COVID-19. 

Globally, companies are haemorrhaging cash daily (as well as throwing in the towel and trying to use Bankruptcy Court and respective countries Insolvency Laws to their advantage) to stay afloat.  Many medium and small businesses are now having to layoff or furloughs employees. As evidence, we have seen an unprecedented number of unemployment claims within the United States 1, and migrant workers lack of monetary assistance to their loved one whom desperately need these funds2.  

In contrast, the question begs to be asked, “How has the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19 pandemic) affected our child’s opportunity to get into a top tier Colleges and/or Universities, or for that matter; any university?”

We at Ajyal Talent Management have been monitoring and continue reaching out to international College and University “lifelines” to gain actionable insights in order for us to communicate effectively with our current and future Tamayuz Parents, hopeful Bidaya students and new and existing Tamayuz Scholars and other peers. Bottom line, most Colleges and Universities (herein “universities’) have been thrown into very unchartered territory as they were quickly “mind altered” to convert their entire university catalogue into online distance learning as well as course delivery while maintaining a myriad of other issues, especially in the realm of finances. 

Ajyal Talent Management has reached out to many university leaders – administrators, university international educational centres directors, department heads, counsellors, higher education consultants and many other experts in the field of University/Higher Education – for their views on how COVID-19 is impacting universities, both now and in the immediate long term (as far as December 2020). We have assimilated a shortlist of topics based on the effects and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We do not endorse these viewpoints. However, it is critical that we open a dialogue and put everything on the table for discussion.  At the end of this blog, we have provided a point of contact to continue our conversation and to answer any questions you may have.

Ajyal Talent Management Viewpoint: Applications and Admissions

The majority of universities will shift and transform their processes and tooling online. These new procedures will initially create added complexities but are essential for online admissions and schooling. Per our conversation with Venkates Swaminathan, CEO, LifeLaunchr and member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, stated “Over the longer term, the university admissions process next year (new academic years start in August 2020) will be more complex, due to online tests, online schooling, and changes to requirements.  Admissions tests will be offered online and at home, and schools will have to adjust to teaching online. All of this will make the admissions process more complex, including for your current scholars applying in the UAE.”

Ajyal Talent Management is seeing a shift from students for whom finances were not a particular concern are now focusing on their state institutions to save money, back in the United States. Universities like Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and Yale will always be just as selective as they are today, as most families would go to great lengths to make that a financial reality for an admitted student. Still, universities that are a few notches below in selectivity will see a substantial impact on their applicant (student) pool.  Further, parents have done a paradigm shift from considering whether a school is an excellent fit to asking themselves whether it is ‘worth it’. As a result, Ajyal Talent Management aligns and supports the UAE Ministry of Educations’ recommended United States, United Kingdom or Singaporean university listings, however, it just may be easier to gain admission to many selective private schools, but much harder to get into the highly regarded “state” institutions.

Ajyal Talent Management Viewpoint: Use Time to Your Advantage and Be Selective

Because of the uncertainties surrounding the health and financial implications of the pandemic, many universities will not have filled their classes by the traditional May 2020 deadline. Universities that are concerned about not meeting their numerical enrollment goals will likely be flexible in allowing students to apply, even at this late date or beyond3.  To give students more time to consider other factors, many universities appear to have “slightly” pushed back their deposit deadline to June 2020. 

If you have a deposit deadline from one university that is May 2020 and another that is June 2020 and you need more time to decide, we recommend appealing to the May 2020 University to give you more time. Depending on how close that university is to filling its class, they could be flexible.  If you do not ask, you will never know.

Ajyal Talent Management Viewpoint: Universities Moving Toward More Online Education

Universities, as well as primary and secondary schools, have made an enormous shift toward online and virtual courses; especially here in the UAE without exception. While the ability to do this so quickly is impressive, the effects on teaching and learning have had mixed results. Even universities that had a viable online course system in place before the crisis are struggling to adapt to a “virtual” programme3. 

The necessary change to online learning has been challenging for most universities, especially those campuses that emphasise an intimate university experience. What’s more, with campus closures, universities have lost the opportunity to actively “engage” with potential students through on-campus experiences, such as admitted student days and open houses.  Universities can mount a ton of webinars, but the fact remains that on-campus events are the most impactful events for students who want to get a visceral feel for a particular campus.

Faculty and staff transitioned all learning to online and virtual in a short period of time, and this will undoubtedly influence the success and retention of students. If fewer students are successful in their courses and fewer students re-enroll for summer and fall semesters, campuses will see their retention rates and tuition revenues decline3.  Lastly, because of the push to move more curriculum online, and the varying time zone differences for our UAE scholars, many international students may not be able to participate in remotely offered classes in real-time comfortably.  In the event a temporary workaround cannot be provided to international students, universities may incur less diverse student populations and deeper financial strain.

Ajyal Talent Management Viewpoint: Concerns for Our International Students

Given the large number of international students who attend United States universities, there are many unknowns as many universities plan their fall 2020 semester. In the event United States Embassies and consulates are unable to reopen relatively soon, this ‘may” negatively impact the processing of newly admitted international students’ I-20, and visa (F-1) requests.  

We know that international students, a finite population that tends to pay more than domestic students, are unable to come to campus because of visa (F-1) restrictions, their absence will most certainly mean lost university tuition revenue.  As such, some universities may choose to offer a delayed start to these “favourable” international students by one semester or quarter. However, students’ ability to return will depend on whether the United States State Department starts to accept routine visa appointments again. That said, even if they do start accepting appointments, there is no guarantee those international students will still choose to come to the United States.3 At the time of this blog, no input has been received by the UAE Ministry of Education regarding UAE scholars returning back for their Fall 2020 and beyond semesters.

Ajyal Talent Management:  Immediate Questions to Ponder 

We hear many of our graduating Bidaya scholars who await their responses (University) as well as other Bidaya and Non Bidaya UAE juniors who are gearing up for their admissions process, that their next steps may feel “unclear” or “foggy”. Previously their questions had some normalcy in them, by asking: “Are my test scores high enough?” and “What should I write about in my university essay?”; however these have now been replaced with “Will I be able to take the tests I need to be competitive?” and “Should I write about coronavirus?”


Our child’s Challenges and Opportunities: 

Ajyal Talent Management Challenge: You are a junior, and the SATs and ACTs were just cancelled. What do you do?

Ajyal Talent Management Opportunities:

For many students, standardised testing is a burdensome task. With the SATs canceling their March,  May  and June exams and the ACT rescheduling their April 4th test to June 13, you may be more concerned than ever about meeting schools’ testing requirements.

If you are a student for whom testing is not an “existential nightmare” or someone who believes your admission hinges on achieving scores within a specific range, take advantage of this extended opportunity for preparation. Ajyal Talent Management can assist with SAT and ACT preparation with a plethora of practise exams, online instructors and webinars.

Something else to consider is that test-optional policies have increased in response to test cancellations. Currently, more than 1,000 universities do not require students to submit SAT or ACT scores. So while it may be hard to solidify a complete target university list without scores in hand, it is worth researching the standardised testing policies of your top university choice. If score submission is not required, starting your admissions essays is another intelligent way to get ahead, as these assignments are likely to have an increased impact on admissions decisions in the coming year. Ajyal Talent Management can assist with essay preparation, structure and grammar tools, too!

Ajyal Talent Management Challenge: The college application process and timeline is likely to remain unpredictable. What can you do to prepare?

Ajyal Talent Management Opportunity: 

Much is up in the air during this transitional juncture, but two (2) elements that are ”set in stone” are the Common and Coalition for College App personal statement prompts for the 2020-21 application cycle. This means you can begin those assignments right away, identifying personal stories that will speak your passions, motivations, and goals. We suggest to our Bidaya students to take approximately 10 minutes each day to brainstorm ideas can help you identify valuable essay topics down the line. 

We at Ajyal Talent Management understand that new developments related to COVID-19 come to light every day, but you can still take control of your admissions destiny. Ajyal Talent Management and our academic advisors are to here to assist you, your parents on your child’s education journey from high school into any university.  Reach out to us; we can help!




3 Interview with Arizona State University, International Students and Scholar Center representatives; Dr. Zohreh Sotoodeh, Dr. Katharina Ells and Ajyal Talent Management on Monday, 22 April 2020