Andy Borst handles admissions amidst pandemic


Photo Courtesy of Andy Borst

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Andy Borst poses for a professional headshot. Borst has had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic during this admissions season.

By Elizabeth Sayasane, Features Editor

Every year, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions takes responsibility for recruiting, admitting and enrolling new students at the University. As Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Andy Borst helps to oversee these operations.

Around this time every year, those working at the admissions office are traveling throughout the world. They go to high schools and speak with counselors and meet with students. They also direct campus visits, both the large operations as well as daily tours, for prospective students.

With the pandemic halting life as usual, admissions operations had to reconfigure itself quickly.

“Throughout a typical year, we’ll host about 50,000 people to campus who are prospective students and their families,” Borst said. “In order to ensure the health and safety of our currently enrolled students, we have discouraged students from visiting campus.”

The office has scheduled more than 2,000 opportunities for students and their families to engage with representatives from the University virtually. A focus of the office has been ensuring that communication between the school and students has been smooth as possible.

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    Even with these dramatic changes being made, though, Borst said the transition went smoothly. This, in part, has been thanks to the frequent COVID testing available on campus.

    This has also made answering questions from counselors, students and parents about how campus is coping easier.

    “It’s been a really great, I think, positive image of the University with showing how well we planned for this event,” Borst said. “It is nice to be able to communicate to students and parents and counselors that we feel like we’re doing better than everybody else in the nation with doing the regular testing and with the Safer Illinois app.”

    He knows one of the biggest concerns for students, particularly high school juniors, at the moment is ACT and SAT testing. The University is moving to test-optional for the academic year which has led to some additional anxiety for students.

    Those who do not want to send scores have concerns about what they will be reviewed on for the admissions process. Those who do want to send scores are concerned that the pandemic will affect their performance on the test.

    “I think that we do have a good process in place of how we’re going to do our review. We’ve done wholistic review for a long time at Illinois, so I think that we’re pretty good at this,” Borst said.

    Nonetheless, he hopes to help ease these anxieties for students. Borst said they should not be concerned too much about their scores because “We’re not going to penalize a student for something that is truly beyond their control.”

    The pandemic has taken away so much of the students’ control, and the University will not hold them accountable for that in the admissions process.

    Borst said that he really hopes to communicate to these students that everyone is there alongside them, trying to maneuver the difficulties that go with working from home.

    Borst said many students ask exactly how they will be reviewed and judged but stressed that there is no special formula for admissions. Applying for college is already a stressful time for many high school students. During the time of COVID-19, students carry the additional stress of uncertainty.

    “We’re right there building the plane with you as it takes off into the air,” he said. “We’re figuring this out as we go, so we’re going to do our best to put the most fair process in place for this fall.”

    Looking to the future and how admissions overall will be impacted by the pandemic, Borst said, is like trying to look into a very murky crystal ball. Their typical projection models are based on known data. Nothing about the current situation with the pandemic is known.

    “The varied questions of helping students has really tested our limits for staffing,” he said.

    The department has struggled to answer questions from all different kinds of students. One question could have several different answers, depending on if that student is a resident of Illinois, comes from another state throughout the country or is an international student.

    “I anticipate challenges in bringing in next years’ class; however, I feel optimistic that we’ll be able to hit the numbers that campus expects,” he said.

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