High school seniors and incoming first-year college students often feel anxious, worried, and fearful about the transition and adjustment to college lifestyle. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm and caused significant changes in plans for many people, especially for the University of Maine’s prospective and incoming first-year students. With that in mind, UMaine’s Admissions Office has made adjustments to make the strenuous college application and admissions process a bit easier for prospective students during this time.

After UMaine closed its doors and switched to remote learning in March, high schools across the nation acted in the same manner. This means that many high school students would not be present at school to take their Advanced Placement (AP) tests, as well as many of their college entrance exams. Around the country, opportunities for students to take the PSAT/SAT and ACT exams have been canceled. Additionally, with travel bans in place and college campuses closed, high school and transfer students were no longer able to take the opportunity to visit colleges in order to assist in the admissions and acceptance process.

UMaine’s Admissions Office is facing challenges adjusting because of COVID-19, along with many other offices on campus. Christopher Richards, the vice president of enrollment management at UMaine shared that an individual’s experience visiting a college campus and interacting with a college’s community has a major influence on their decision. He said that not being able to interact with prospective students has been an immense change for his office.

However, UMaine’s Admissions Office is working to continue to provide a seamless and positive experience for the school’s prospective students. Although the campus cannot host visitors at this time, UMaine’s Admissions Office and Marketing Department have created “Virtual UMaine” to help prospective students make their college decision.

“Virtual UMaine allows the student to experience the campus by watching a virtual tour, providing information on academic programs and departments across campus,” Richards stated. “Also a number of [UMaine’s] academic departments have implemented Zoom meetings and virtual tours of their own to connect with students that have been admitted into their program. [UMaine’s] Admissions Office has also created Zoom meetings that allow potential students to interact with current students already here on campus. If needed, students can schedule an individual meeting as well and the Admissions Office works to connect students directly to faculty/staff.”

Francois Amar, the Dean of UMaine’s Honors College, said that the Honors College has conducted a series of Zoom events to assist incoming students, with the theme “Ask Honors Anything.”

Additionally, the College of Education and Human Development will conduct a total of 14 Zoom information and Q&A sessions to assist incoming students and parents. Mary Gresham, the interim dean of the College of Education and Human Development, shared that advisors, faculty, administrators, student ambassadors and a representative from the admissions office will participate in these sessions. The goal is to provide prospective students and their families with a snapshot of who UMaine is as a community and the invitation to reach out at any time during this process to a now-familiar face.

As for UMaine’s application process, Richard stated that the process has remained the same, and individuals should continue to apply to the school electronically.

In response to the number of college entrance standardized tests that have been canceled due to COVID-19, all of UMaine’s college deans have deemed that the departments will be “testing optional,” meaning that exam scores are not required for consideration of acceptance into a program. Richards said that UMaine will soon be adjusting its admissions and merit scholarship criteria to reflect this decision.

“Thinking ahead to the class of 2025, which will enter the University in Fall of 2021, [the Honors College is] already working to create admissions protocols both generally and for Honors that will take into account the fact that some traditional elements like SAT or ACT might be missing from applications,” Amar said.

“Our goal is to ensure that no students are negatively impacted by issues outside of their control resulting from the COVID-19 situation,” Richards said.

That being said, UMaine will continue to provide college credit to incoming students that receive UMaine’s necessary score requirements on AP exams.

Richards also shared that the Admissions Office continues to be very active on many different social media platforms to assist prospective students. There is a UMaine Class of 2024 page and an Official UMaine Parent and Family Facebook page that can help keep everyone connected and answer questions.

In a way, Richards believes that the Admissions Office has been able to be more engaged with admitted students in this manner, as they are very active on social media and have had hundreds of one-on-one conversations with admitted students to make up for UMaine’s typical Accepted Students Day.

“I feel confident that on the other side of this current crisis, our already incredible culture at UMaine will be even stronger. We are also finding that we have developed tools to engage with students that will also assist us in future years under more ‘normal’ circumstances,” Richards shared.