(WGGB/WSHM) -- The pandemic has impacted the school year, including the admission process for higher education.

We got answers from local colleges and universities to see what's different for students applying to schools amid the pandemic.

At Holyoke Community College, officials said they consider the school an open access institution, meaning requirements for admission were already low, but officials there and at other areas schools are making more adjustments in light of the pandemic.

“We are fielding a lot more phone calls and emails from students that are very concerned if they are going to be able to be a student right now," said Mark Hudgik, director of admission at HCC.

HCC is giving more remote options for admission and advising needs. Students only need to complete high school to qualify for admission at the college.

Hudgik told Western Mass News that due to COVID-19, students will now have more flexibility when deciding when to start school.

“If a student doesn’t think they are ready to start the traditional end of January semester, we have another start a few weeks into February and then again in March so that students do have multiple opportunities," Hudgik added.

Westfield State University has joined a Massachusetts Department of Higher Education pilot program that allows students to opt-out of sharing their standardized test scores. Officials said this comes after the cancellation of many standardized testing dates due to the pandemic.

In a statement, Westfield State's executive director of admission Dr. Kelly Hart said:

"Westfield State students are much more than just a test score. Grades in individual courses throughout high school and the strength of a student's curriculum, in the context of what's available to them at their school, are better predictors of college success than a one-day test."

Ross Giombetti with Giombetti Associates, a consulting firm that helps with the college admission process, told Western Mass News they’ve seen an increase in request for support during the pandemic.

“The problems and changes is just the uncertainty and unknown for families and students on what to do...They should have a solid plan, they should know the timelines, but also it needs to be fun. It should be fun because it already is stressful," Giombetti said.

Western New England University is eliminating a number of requirements for admissions. These include standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and the application fee.

“We just know that things are more stressful, things are more challenging, so any student that is interested in applying to Western New England, they can reach out to us and we will give them a fee waiver code fee," said Bryan Gross, vice president of enrollment management and marketing at Western New England University.

Scholarships have also been increased for students and a three-week winter program is now being offered.

Western Mass News checked in with Springfield College officials to see how the admission process would be this year.

“We are trying to remove obstacles and that’s really going to be the key to success to help high school students navigate their college search process in a COVID-19 world," said Stuart Jones, vice president of enrollment management at Springfield College.

Standardized test scores are not required and the application fees have been waived.

Similar requirements are in place at American International College.

“We’ve always done holistic review, which means we look at the entire applicant as a whole," said Kerry Cole, vice president of admissions at AIC.

Officials look at a combination of personal statements, recommendation letters, transcripts and SATs. Submitting test scores has been optional since 2016.

“You’re not alone. It’s a crazy time for everyone. Every family, every student is adjusting and if they’re feeling overwhelmed, just pick up the phone and call," Cole added.

This message from AIC echoed what each school official told us: the best thing students and their families can do if they have any questions or concerns is to reach out to the specific admissions office.

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