Graduate programs adapt to new obstacles for applicants due to COVID-19

Some programs have testing and application fee waivers for qualifying students

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many locations that administer testing required for graduate school applicants have closed, forcing schools to find alternative forms of testing.

In an April 13 press release, Kaplan, a test prep company, announced accommodations made by the administrators of tests commonly required for admission to graduate programs.

According to the press release, GRE tests are no longer being administered in person and can now be taken on home computers with a human proctor monitoring test takers. The GRE is normally used for areas like education, engineering and psychology. 

The makers of the GMAT, the most commonly used test for business schools, are also offering online testing services.

Prospective law school students who were scheduled to take the April LSAT, which was canceled, may take the LSAT-Flex in May.

In addition to the adapted testing options offered across the board, graduate programs at ASU are taking additional measures to make testing accessible.

The W. P. Carey School of Business is offering standardized exam waivers for students who are unable to take required exams based on factors like GPA and work experience. 

The school is also allowing students to use the Harvard Business Review, a less expensive option than some other tests.

Rebecca Mallen, director of graduate student recruitment at W. P. Carey, said she has seen a few disturbances in testing before but nothing like the nationwide cancellations due to COVID-19. 

“Our number one concern, of course, is allowing an opportunity for flexibility for you to start a graduate program, which our students are going to need more than ever because they're going to be coming out in an incredibly competitive market in a very, very downward turned economy,” Mallen said.

So far, Mallen said W. P. Carey hasn’t seen much of an impact on enrollment in graduate programs since the COVID-19 outbreak but is concerned about enrolled international students who may not be able to receive visas.

The inability to see schools in person makes choosing a school to attend more difficult for some recent graduate program admits. Sammie Lee was accepted at ASU Law early this year and has watched her peers struggle with this.

“I know a lot of people there were talking about how they were disappointed because they couldn't come physically to ASU and see the school, and how can you decide to go to school somewhere you know where you haven't even been to the state?” Lee said.

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law has adopted new testing policies to increase accessibility for applicants. In addition to the LSAT, the college will accept the GRE in applications.

“For some people, especially if they want to start this fall, that's going to be the only way they can do it,” Andrew Jaynes, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid said.

The law school will also make the Masters of Legal Studies Honors program available to students regardless of testing. The MSLH program allows applicants who were not initially accepted to the Juris Doctor program to be admitted after one semester of classes if they have a certain GPA.

“What we think the best indication of success in law school will be is actual success in law school,” Jaynes said. 

“The people in the Masters of Legal Studies Honors program are in classes with all the other JD students and they're graded against all the other JD students, so it's a real good indicator of if we think they're going to succeed.”

Jaynes said he anticipates the current changes in admission policy will make online methods feel more feasible and shape law school admissions for years to come.

“Now legal education is kind of stuffy and traditional in a lot of ways and maybe slow to embrace change,” Jaynes said. “I think this may ease people's minds about online learning and remote learning for the better.”

Mallen hopes that the unexpected obstacles in applying to graduate programs don’t prevent people from pursuing graduate degrees.

“Don't let COVID-19 be a reason that you don't continue your education,” Mallen said. “If anything, let it be the reason that you do continue on with a graduate program. Now is the time to be hopeful. Now is the time to look towards the future.”


Reach the reporter at gforslun@asu.edu and on Twitter @GretaForslund.

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