In the face of COVID-19, colleges and universities across New Jersey are tweaking the ways they evaluate students and ultimately accept them for the 2021 academic year.

Many institutions have, at least for now, completely or mostly eliminated their typical requirement that standardized test scores be included with prospective students' applications. That's mainly because taking the SAT or ACT wasn't a given for most students in 2020 as it's typically been, due to challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We still have a very holistic review process; we just shifted the emphasis a little bit," said Priscilla Alicea, assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions at Georgian Court University in Lakewood.

Test scores are optional, except for those wishing to enter GCU's nursing program, Alicea said. Instead, the university is requiring two letters of recommendation this year, and that the application's essay/person statement be completed.

GCU works on a rolling admissions process — once an application is received, it's reviewed and then a decision is released. For the most part, universities set deadlines for accepting applications and releasing decisions.

Rutgers University-New Brunswick will use a test-optional approach for at least the fall 2021 semester. Applicants have the option to submit SAT/ACT scores.

"Rutgers-New Brunswick will evaluate nearly 50,000 applicants using a new index weighted on high school course work in academic subjects. The holistic review will include honors and/or AP coursework and other factors," a university spokesman said.

An enrollment official with Montclair State University, which has not required test scores with applications for a few years now, said students' grades during their junior year will be reviewed in light of the pandemic "and will not negatively impact the student's chance of being admitted."

Along with other Ivy League schools across the country, Princeton University is pausing its standardized testing requirement as part of its review process. The university is also moving to one application deadline, Jan. 1, for the upcoming admission cycle.

Stockton University, headquartered in Galloway, has been mostly test-optional since the 2019 academic year, only requiring standardized test scores from students interested in certain programs. For Fall 2021, test scores will not be required from any students. Application deadlines for some of the university's specialized programs, meanwhile, have been pushed back by about two months.

Bob Heinrich, chief enrollment management officer at Stockton, said the university has also made its "Instant Decision" opportunity available online — students can meet face-to-face with an admissions counselor and receive a decision on the spot.

"If a family feels comfortable coming in person for an Instant Decision Day, we'll be happy to accommodate them, but if they'd like to do it online, we can accommodate that as well," Heinrich said.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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