Applying to college in the midst of a pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced an unprecedented year for college applicants, though there are many ways to reduce your worries

Lauren Ashe, Staff Writer

At the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought an early end to the class of 2021’s junior year. Junior year is known as the most difficult and important year of high school, as many colleges look to your grades and the rigor of your courses during junior year to evaluate how well you will perform at their university. 

Juniors normally participate in certain hallmark experiences in order to prepare for the college application process. One of these experiences is attending college visits across the country. Through these visits, students are able to explore potential colleges and hear from current students to truly understand if the school is the right fit for them. 

But, the pandemic removed many of these opportunities. Many schools across the country have temporarily shut down visits in order to adhere to guidelines and health procedures that are in place. In addition to this, many students do not want to travel during the pandemic due to the added health risk that comes with it.

Colleges have given students the opportunity to explore the university through virtual information sessions. These sessions include opportunities to virtually tour the campus, have Q&A sessions with students, and gather the information that you would normally receive on a campus tour.

I highly recommend attending these informational sessions, as they have helped to ease the uncertainty that I have experienced and to learn more about the institutions that I am applying to. The sessions that I have attended have further immersed me into the culture of the school by providing an avenue for me to become familiar with various aspects of the universities. 

In addition to this, though, students have also faced the problem of standardized testing. Towards the end of junior year, rising seniors normally begin to take the ACT and SAT, which help colleges predict your ability to perform well at their institutions. But, a shift this year caused by the pandemic led to great uncertainty because many testing dates were canceled.”

Hundreds of colleges and universities have dropped the requirement for standardized testing, including the University of California, New York University, the University of Chicago, and Boston University. In contrast, the College Board and ACT Inc. allows students to take the exams, though many students feel unsure about taking these tests for a multitude of reasons. 

Ultimately, I recommend looking at the test averages for each school that you are applying to in order to decide if you will submit your scores. It is important to carefully consider this, as you also have the opportunity to utilize the test-optional nature of many schools around the country. Colleges have noted that applying without your scores will not hurt your chances of gaining admission to schools, so I believe that it is important that you consider this option as well. 

Though this is a different and uncertain time, it is important to focus on the ways that you can work with the opportunities that are presented to you. Whether it’s attending an online information session or looking at statistics from the school’s website, it is important that all seniors understand the importance of managing your time well and making the most of this unique experience.