HASTINGS — Chris Schukei, dean of admissions at Hastings College, said the coronavirus pandemic has had a measurable impact on how the college handles the admissions and scholarship process.
“Probably the biggest one is that we are no longer requiring ACT or SAT scores,” he said. “That decision was made last summer, primarily because so many of the tests (administered by ACT and SAT) were canceled. Even if students wanted to take the test, they weren’t able to.”
Because it is no longer using college entrance test scores, Hastings College is relying solely on students’ cumulative high school GPA (grade point average) for its admission decisions.
The cutoff point for admission is a 2.65 GPA.
But Schukei said high school students who did not earn a 2.65 minimum GPA can use an appeals process to earn enrollment.
He said a student who uses the appeals process must have people write letters of recommendation to explain why they believe that young person can succeed at Hastings College.
A student who uses the appeals process must submit a sample of his or her writing to the school. Finally, the student must be interviewed by a Hastings College committee.
Committee members will recommend whether a student will be admitted, or whether that student should consider other options for post-secondary education.
Schukei said Hastings College has created an online chart that students can use to match their cumulative GPA to the scholarship’s name and the amount of money offered by each category of scholarship the school offers.
However, even GPA has been complicated by the pandemic, Schukei said.
Some high schools around the country used pass/fail grades for spring semester after the pandemic struck. A few high schools didn’t provide any grades at all for second semester classes.
Also, some students have a more difficult time mastering the curriculum when it is presented in an online format.
Consequently, Schukei said, “We’re always open to talking with students and letting them explain their transcripts.”
Another complication to the admissions process is that Hastings College counselors can no longer travel to Nebraska high schools to meet with prospective students in person.
That was especially true this past spring when most Nebraska high schools ended in-person classes during second semester and switched to online instruction.
The vast majority of Nebraska high schools resumed in-person classes this past fall, but did not allow college counselors to make in-person visits.
Instead, counselors are making virtual visits. Schukei said counselors are increasingly relying on high school students who are already interested in Hastings College to take the initiative in setting up some of these virtual visits.
Before the pandemic, many students liked to physically set foot on several college campuses before making a choice about which school to attend. The initial pandemic wave put an end to that practice.
“The virtual became so important for us,” Schukei said. “We believe we were able to do some pretty effective visit days and generate interest and show kids a lot of the aspects of Hastings College without being face-to-face with them.”
In non-COVID years, Hastings College would host individual student visits that allowed young people to visit with relevant professors and/or coaches. “We’d also have some big group days,” Schukei added.
When the pandemic hit, Hastings College switched to virtual “visit days” for both individual students and large student groups.
People in the large virtual group eventually were broken into smaller contingents of students, who would then talk with faculty members teaching in the majors they want to pursue.
Beginning in August, Hastings College resumed doing a limited number of individual student tours of its campus. Schukei said those visits excluded eating in the dining hall and visiting residence hall rooms.
While individual student visits have resumed, Hastings College has continued to use Zoom and Zoom breakout sessions to accommodate those large groups of 60 to 70 students for virtual campus visit days.