California college admissions amid the pandemic: What you need to know

College admissions are changing fast. With most California colleges no longer requiring the SAT or ACT, more students are applying to competitive campuses. Colleges, bombarded with more applications, face questions about their admissions decisions.

How will admissions officers weigh high school grades earned in online classes during the pandemic? With more emphasis placed on essays, what role are consultants playing to help polish applications? And with a national high-profile admissions scandal still working its way through the courts, the question remains: How can students get a fair shake to win coveted spots at the University of California, California State University and private campuses?

EdSource’s Larry Gordon and Anne Vasquez unpack these questions and more with a panel of experts on California college admissions.

Read more about this roundtable.


Josh Godinez

Counselor at Centennial High School in Corona and President of the California Association of School Counselors

Josh Godinez is a counselor at Centennial High School in Corona-Norco Unified School District and is the president of the California Association of School Counselors. He was named the 2019 California School Counselor of the Year. He also has lectured and served as an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University.  Before becoming a school counselor, he spent nearly a decade as a high school social studies teacher.

Emily Engelschall

Interim Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Services and Director of Undergraduate Admissions at UC Riverside

Emily Engelschall, has served in the role of Interim Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Services since November 2019 and Director of Undergraduate Admissions since March 2013. She has been at UC Riverside since June of 2001 serving in a variety of capacities in that time, all within the Undergraduate Recruitment, Outreach, and Undergraduate Admissions space, emphasizing the quality and diversity of UCR’s student body.

Brandon Tuck

Director for the Office of Admissions at Cal Poly Pomona

Brandon Tuck is the Director for the Office of Admissions at Cal Poly Pomona. Brandon’s career in higher education spans over 15 years, where he has worked at both private and state university systems focused on outreach and admissions. He received his Bachelors of Business Administration from Howard University, his Master’s in Business Administration from The Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University and he is currently pursuing his Ed.D at Cal Poly Pomona.

Jeff Selingo

A New York Times bestselling author about college admissions

Jeff Selingo has written about higher education for more than two decades and is a New York Times bestselling author of three books. His latest book, Who Gets In & Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, was published in September 2020 and was named among the 100 Notable Books of the year by the New York Times. The former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, he now is a special advisor for innovation and professor of practice at Arizona State University. He also co-hosts the podcast, FutureU.

Jessica C. Ramos

UC Berkeley student studying psychology

Jessica is a first-generation College student who attends UC Berkeley and is currently majoring in Psychology. She was born and grew up in Oakland and graduated from Skyline High School in 2021, her goal is to serve Oakland’s future generations. Jessica participated in EdSource’s California families struggle to learn series.

Larry Gordon

Panel moderator; Higher Education Reporter, EdSource

Larry Gordon covers higher education. He was a higher education writer at the Los Angeles Times, where he covered colleges and universities in California and nationwide. He won the first place award for education reporting in 2014 from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Larry previously was a reporter and editor at the Bergen Record in his home state New Jersey. He was a mid-career Fulbright Fellow, teaching journalism at the American University in Bulgaria. He earned an M.A. at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. at Georgetown University. He is co-author of the hiking guide “Stairway Walks in Los Angeles.” He is based in Los Angeles.

Anne Vasquez

Panel moderator; Executive Director, EdSource

Anne Vasquez took the helm as EdSource’s Executive Director in May 2021. Previously, she served as Director of Content and Strategic Initiatives at EdSource. In that role, she helped shape editorial strategy, grow partnerships and expand the organization’s footprint throughout California. Prior to joining EdSource, Anne was an executive at Tribune Publishing, where she most recently served as Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Chief Digital Officer. She previously was the Managing Editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Anne began her career at The Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News, where she was an education reporter and later an editor.