Features Magazine News Volume 70, Issue 2

Seniors Applying to College in a Pandemic

by Riley Martin

Graphic by Emma Cypressi

College applications are already stressful for seniors at this time of year, but throw in COVID and everything becomes more complicated. While many colleges are not requiring subject tests like the SAT or ACT, some still are, which is causing a whirl-wind of stress for students like Faran Esmailpour, Portia Sasser, Rin Boegel, Kiri Sanan and Sarah Long who are applying to colleges that require these standardized tests. Complications due to the pandemic have caused cancellation after cancellation of these tests, which has caused students to stress out trying to find available SAT/ACT dates. However, it can be beneficial to some students like Long, who said, “It’s more beneficial for me because I don’t have as much confidence in my GPA.”

The Page sent out a poll where it was found that many seniors who are not sending in or taking the standardized tests are extremely grateful. Many students believe it allows for a more accurate representation of them as a student, and they can focus on things like the college essay and such things that better reflect them as a student. Josh Stemmerich said, “Test submissions being optional I think have made not just myself, but others, too, less worried about getting into colleges because it allows their extra curricular activities and parts about them other than their book/test smarts to shine through in the application process.” Similarly, Lily Logan said, “I think it’s easier because I don’t have to think about that extra step, and I don’t have to compare my score with previous students who applied. Also I know that the evaluation of my app will be based on my grades and interests, not on a standardized test that I think is not a good evaluation of someone’s education and knowledge.” Students are allowed to focus on the things about themselves that shine through and make them distinctive, like hobbies, activities and interests. 

Though many are grateful that they get to focus on their essays more, there is a prevalent amount of procrastination due to quarantine. Another question on the poll sent out by The Page found that the majority of students are stuck procrastinating because they aren’t on campus, where there is a shared sense of urgency and panic amongst seniors. When the students are all surrounded by the sense of panic from other students, it provides the necessary kick for them to get their work done. In regards to the completion of essays, senior Jenna Benenson, said, “There is no community of panic surrounding this time.” Emmeline Sutliff, who felt particularly passionate about the question if online school made college essays easier to complete, responded, “Absolutely not.” Francesca Romero has also witnessed difficulties in working on her college essay, “It is harder because I’m online constantly trying to get work done and balance with extracurriculars, so it feels like there’s not enough time.” This response came up quite often in the poll, along with the fact that it is simply difficult to be online for school for 5-6 hours, do homework for hours after that and then finally proceed to work on a college essay. Combine that with a semi-common experience of low motivation, and it becomes a breeding ground for procrastination. Sanan said, “No, I still have a large workload in online school. Plus everything feels a little harder because of my low motivation in quarantine.” 

Another unfortunate reality because of the COVID-19 was that it made it hard for some students to go on college visits. Not being able to visit colleges has impacted some deeply and simultaneously has not phased others. For Stemmerich, the lack of open college campuses made him take a risk that he otherwise wouldn’t need to take if COVID was not present. He said, “Due to there not being some schools I can visit in person, now my decision on where to go for college is going to have to depend more on experiences of others that I know who go to the schools I apply to, as well as their location and, even more so now, how much I would like to spend 4 years living there.” For many students, it is important for them to feel the environment and the tone of the school environment along with the city it is in. For Romero, the scene of the campus is impactful for her decision, and she said, “It’s definitely made things a little harder because, for me, the overall vibe of the campus and what kind of people are there is important to me. It’s a lot harder to make these important decisions without actually seeing where you’re applying.” It specifically poses a problem when considering schools that are cross country or schools that you are not familiar with at all, which are even more difficult to access. Schools along the West Coast are much more accessible via car than schools on the East Coast. Hermela Desalegne said, “I’ve visited a couple on the West Coast, but because of the pandemic I can’t visit the schools on the East Coast. it’s made it harder to select colleges because what the campus looks like and the actual city the college is in matters.”

On the flip side, some students haven’t been affected, and the incapability to visit the schools in person has made no real difference. This is the case for Maddie Laxamana and Benenson. Laxamana said, “Not being able to see the campus in person didn’t affect my choices.” Benenson similarly mentioned, “Yes, I have [visited colleges], but it does not affect my decision.”

Unfortunately, the class of 2021 has experienced complications towards a part of their life that should be an exciting transition. Although they are experiencing something brand new to not only themselves but to everyone else as well, seniors are maintaining an attitude that will allow them to make the best of this unfortunate situation.