College Application Process: Changed Forever?

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Jase Leonard, Copy Editor

If being pressured into making decisions that will control the rest of your life was not hard enough for high school seniors, now they have the extra burden of navigating all this through Covid-19 complications. With changes to standardized testing, college visits, and the application process in general, high school upperclassmen have a few new challenges when it comes to applying to colleges.

Roughly 400 schools have announced that ACT/SAT scores would become optional when applying due to the cut in testing locations. For high schoolers everywhere, this was great news. It is no secret that standardized tests not only fail to fully represent a student’s academic abilities, but they also favor students in wealthier communities. It is extremely hard to get a good score on these tests without paying for a tutor and or the expensive studying materials the College Board recommends. Whether or not schools will stick to being test-optional is still up in the air, but there have been rumors that this will stick after things go back to normal.

Colleges have had to make many changes to accommodate incoming students’ safety, while also still encouraging students to apply. Some of these changes include virtual meetings with admission officers and putting a hold on campus tours. Although the meeting with admissions officers is a great utility for students, having to choose a school without seeing it is hard. Many people have had to cancel college trips due to Covid-19; the summer before senior year is when many students visit colleges. Choosing where you are going to spend the next four years of your life is a tough decision, and it helps to physically be in that location to truly get a feel for it. Luckily, many campuses are back open, where you can walk through on a virtually guided tour. You don’t even have to leave your house! Many schools offer virtual tours on their websites.

A plus for students applying this year: colleges are sparingly looking at your grades from the end of the 2020 school year. All the students who, like me, struggled to adapt to online learning when the school first got shut down can now take a deep breath. Schools recognize the challenges and stress many students went through last spring; admission officers will be looking more closely at your transcript and personal essay. What these admission officers are going to be looking for is what classes you took and how you did in them, and how well you show your character in your essay. They want to see your creativity, how well you can show them who you are. And if I may leave you with one piece of advice: please, do not write your whole personal essay on how Covid-19 affected you. Unless the question specifically asks about Covid-19, try your hardest to leave it out. Everyone dealt with challenges throughout the pandemic, and many students are writing about it. Be unique! With that being said, college applications can be stressful, but there are many resources out there to help you out. So much has changed over the last seven months, and everyone is doing their best to adjust to this new way of living.