The Challenges of the College Process Amidst a Pandemic

Rahnuma Aroshi, Contributing Writer

With spring’s arrival, high school seniors all over the country eagerly await one thing: college decisions. It is no secret that the past year of 2020 was difficult for numerous reasons. The pandemic memorably impacted the class of 2021. When the pandemic first hit, many of those students were in their junior year, barely starting the college process before the very foundation of their education was shaken to the core.

Not only did students lose out on their junior year, including prom, internships, and other events as a result of the pandemic, but they also went into senior year fully remote. Besides feeling isolated from their classmates and friends, many also felt pressure from both school and home to continue to work hard and achieve their goals regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. Some students feel adults should be more understanding about this issue, especially in a remote environment, where distractions cause students to lose focus. Senior Leo Austin-Spooner comments on this occurrence, “Going into senior year, it’s been really hard to stay motivated in school and focus on schoolwork because of everything going on. Not only is the pandemic raging on, but this year we lost four lives in our community due to gun violence, murder, suicide, and a car accident. These things are really difficult for everyone to deal with on top of our personal issues.”

Seniors barely have had a moment to reflect on their current state”

Senior year always tends to be a stressful and overwhelming time for students, but in the midst of the pandemic, seniors barely have had a moment to reflect on their current state before rushing off to complete yet another item on the endless college application to-do list. Since the pandemic has made remote learning the norm, it also means that students lost direct access to mentors and teachers that would have helped them throughout the application process. For Amena Nushrat ’21, she had to prioritize in order to accomplish her goals: “The college application process was grueling. I struggled with balancing school work and supplemental essays, and not being able to meet with my recommenders and guidance counselor made the process even more difficult. The pandemic definitely put the Class of 2021 at a disadvantage with college admissions this year.” Despite the challenging year, seniors have made the most of the time they had left in high school and prepared for their future.

Uncertainty is never a good thing when it comes to the college process. However, without the emotional support from friends and teachers, along with the burden of adjusting to new application requirements, it may feel as though uncertainty is the only constant in one’s life. When asked about her thoughts on this year’s applications, senior Anna Von Rosenstiel said, “I think it’s hard for me to see how the pandemic affected the [college] application process because I don’t have anything to compare it to. I wish I could have talked to my classmates more since it felt like I was doing some things wrong, but it was also easy to get stressed out by small factors.” Above all, it was the lack of personal connection and the chance to get excited with friends over college decisions that made this year’s application process feel a little emptier. 

While it is difficult to replicate college explorations online, many schools provide their students with alternative resources to learn about their different programs and facilities. Von Rosenstiel explained, “I did some virtual visits, which were kind of helpful, but I missed seeing other interested students and just experiencing more of the atmosphere on campus, but I still got some insight into the college life of certain schools.”

 Along with the general anxiety of making mistakes on their application, seniors also dealt with not knowing how standardized test scores, like that of the SAT and ACT, would be considered in the application cycle. Farida Moustafa, a senior who had already taken the SAT once, expressed her concerns, “This year was extremely competitive and I questioned my application a lot. I wish I had been able to take the SAT at least one more time. The lack of SAT requirements [from colleges] made the whole process so much more competitive and scary. There was still the possibility that despite working so hard, I wouldn’t make it.” 

Moustafa’s words encapsulate the emotions of countless members of her class. With so much uncertainty in today’s world, many seniors are depending on their college decisions to open the door to their future. However, even if one doesn’t get into their dream college, or is struggling academically this year, it is important to take time to reflect on how far one has come—don’t let it break you. After over a year of living in this chaotic world, one should feel proud of themselves for coming so far and have faith that one will find success and happiness wherever they go.