Joliet, Ill. – As local and regional high school students continue their return to the classroom for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began last spring, many school officials are hoping to end this long, strange year on a high note of success and adaptation. For senior students, namely those planning to head to college this fall, the year continues to present them with a series of challenges during their final chapter of high school that has required an enhanced level of adaption, namely regarding the pursuit of what comes next for them following graduation.

“Students are scrambling to finish senior year and graduate. In many cases, this continued adaption is resulting in senior students waiting a long time to choose a university, and most are still unsure about when and how to finish applying to schools. USF continues to adapt as the needs of prospective students change,” said Eric Wignall, University of St. Francis (USF) Vice President for Admissions.

“May 1st used to be a major deadline facing students making the decision of which school to choose. That deadline just does not mean that much this year. We have seen a number of applications this spring from students who just recently started their college search,” he added.

Wignall said USF understands students’ late start to the process and offers that admissions counselors are on campus and online waiting to answer questions and offer students the guidance they are seeking.

“When rising cases of Covid-19 shut down campuses last spring, most colleges were finishing their annual admissions cycle. At USF, we quickly changed to online tools and shifted our open houses and campus tours to online virtual sessions. We also utilized online scheduling tools to allow students and families to easily pick a date and time to speak with a live counselor. While Covid-19 presented an immense hurdle, we were persistent in our efforts to connect with students as personally as possible,” he said.

USF initiated an alternative test-optional admission route last May, as well, with the hopes of using the best and fairest criteria for evaluating every student’s potential.

“After talking with health professionals, we planned for a very different sort of year. Going to test optional was just one step. It was obvious to us that the College Board and ACT would not be able to open enough testing sites, so we quickly announced USF wouldn’t require test scores,” Wignall said.

Instead, USF now considers students’ respective academic performances and participation in rigorous, college-preparatory programs. Students still, though, will be required to demonstrate English proficiency before admission.

“Our admissions standards were changed to focus more on high school grades and activities. We look for students who are leaders in high school both in and out of the classroom while also demonstrating a commitment to community service. Ultimately, our objective is to encourage a wide range of high-achieving students like to consider USF,” Wignall added.

Students are still able to submit their standardized test scores if they choose to do so.

“If you believe your test scores are indicative of your academic achievement, then we are happy to consider them as part of your application. However, if you have a strong academic record demonstrated by above-average grades in challenging courses, but do not feel your test results are a good reflection of your academic performance, you can choose not to submit them,” Wignall said.

Wignall concluded that, while the pandemic has presented students and their families with a variety of challenges, there is no better time than now to get started because of the long-term value that a degree from USF carries with it.

“High school students looking at college, along with their parents, are right to be cautious about investing time and money into an educational program, especially in light of the challenges Covid-19 created over one year ago and that still exist today. It is our goal to show students and their families that a college degree can be worth millions of dollars over the course of one’s career. Our aid packages and scholarships help to greatly offset the cost of that investment, so we want to demonstrate to these students the importance of acting now because a USF degree is very accessible to them. Once that dialogue with them begins, we are confident they will agree and will want to be a Fighting Saint in the fall,” Wignall said.

Students interested in learning more should visit for more information and to connect with a USF admissions counselor.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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