Applying to college in a pandemic: Seniors adjust to changes in application process during COVID-19

Netanya Shaffin, Reporter

In most years, the day after a student reads an acceptance letter, they can run into the college counseling office to share their excitement and happiness with their college counselor. This year, they have to settle for an email or an organized Zoom call.

This is only one of the aspects of a new and unique college search process that is leaving students with different experiences that no other class has encountered.

The disadvantages of this new process can cause a significant amount of stress for seniors. From the inability to meet with the college counselors easily to virtual college tours and information sessions, this usually-exciting process has become more unpromising.

“It almost feels like I’m online shopping for schools,” senior Matan Rosenberg said. “There are virtual tours, but it’s not really the same.”
According to Rosenberg, it is difficult to pick a college when you are not able to physically be on campus or simply experience its feel.

From an administrative standpoint, the greatest missing aspect is the energy usually present throughout the office around this time of the year. No students are running into the guidance suite with joy on their faces when they get accepted into college. In contrast, administrators are not able to support students immediately if they get rejected.

“I think something we all miss is the energy that is generated when we are able to work one-on-one together,” Director of College Guidance Sue Rexford said. “There is nothing like seeing a student run down the hall saying ‘I got in, I got in, I’m going to college.’”

Despite the downsides, the concept of a remote college process presents positive aspects to help the seniors. Some of these can make the process easier or simply give the student more leeway during the stressful senior year.

“Test-optional is a big pro, especially for anyone that didn’t get to do their ACT or SATs,” senior Ruby Mendelson said.

Mendelson thinks that many colleges going test-optional, combined with colleges’ leniency in test scores and grades presents a major advantage. Since many events, activities and camps were virtual or canceled this year, Mendelson was also given more time to focus on different aspects of the process, such as the application essays.

While the current senior class is mainly dealing with the changes regarding the college application process, the Class of 2022 is also questioning what their process will look like in the upcoming months.

Although they do not know much about what next year’s process will look like, the juniors can expect their experience to be similar to that of the Class of 2021’s.

“With COVID, I am assuming a lot of schools are going to be test-optional, I’m sure a lot of interviews will be online [and there will be] online visits, ” junior Maia Zimmers said. “… It’s still going to be pretty similar, I assume.”

Despite differing opinions, the seniors can all agree that this year’s process is unlike any other.

“I’m really proud of how they’ve handled it,” Rexford said. “I just want them to keep on keeping on.”