COVID Affects College Application Process

As high school students around the country entered into their final months of junior year last March, they began to think about the next stage of their lives. English teachers eased the process by starting the first chapter of the application: the college essay. While some students were able to finish their essays in school, many were interrupted by the emergence of the dangerous Coronavirus.

With schools being shut down around the country, Seton Hall Prep students had to quickly adapt to their evolving environment, seeing the college admissions process through an entirely new lens. This started with that all-important essay since many students did not finish it or wanted to create a second draft. Instead of being in school, handing their college counselors the essay and having the opportunity to meet with them one-on-one, students had to use the technological resources available to them, including email, phone calls, and Microsoft Teams. This was only the beginning of the many challenges the Class of 2021 would have to face in this new age of pandemic. Narrowing down lists of colleges was incredibly difficult without the ability to see schools and learn about them in-person. College tours and information sessions, which include seeing all a college has to offer, are some of the most valuable resources in knowing which colleges best fit one’s wants. With quarantine and many schools shutting down, however, students did not have the ability to utilize this resource; instead, students attended online information sessions and virtual tours. These resources were still very useful, but they were not as helpful as being in-person on the campus.

These were far from the only aspects of the process that went virtual, though. College counselor Mr. Laster, the man who leads the College Placement Discussion Series, had to move virtual to distribute all necessary information to the senior class. With the inability to gather students in the auditorium, Mr. Laster moved the College Placement Discussion Series online. Almost every month, new information was conveyed through a YouTube video created by Mr. Laster and the accompanying video notes. Similarly, important forms were distributed online, such as the Teacher Recommendation form, and submitted not in person, but through email. Many students found email a very easy means of communication with their college counselors, whether it be for submitting these forms or their various supplemental essays for editing. Once students finally finished their various applications, some had one more part of the process they had to complete: the college interview. As one might guess, this was no longer an in-person activity because most colleges used Zoom for their interviews. For those students who have participated in a virtual interview, many said that it was not made more difficult on Zoom. While they certainly found it different from being face-to-face with the interviewer, seniors that have been interviewed stated that they were so used to being online that it felt no different from an in-person interview. If anything, they said that being online made the interview easier because they did not have to leave their house and they could more easily prepare for it.

While much of the college admissions process was made more difficult for seniors by being online, there were some benefits to it. The one that sticks out the most is the waiving of SAT or ACT scores on the application. While students that took the test were still able to submit it, almost every school around the country went test-optional for the 2021 admissions cycle. This was incredibly beneficial for both students who had tests cancelled, but also for students that are simply not good test takers. The test-optional policy allowed students to choose not to send a score they were not happy with, relieving a lot of stress for people who do not like standardized testing.

The 2021 college admissions process is very different from any other year in history, and the adaptability shown by college counselors and the entirety of the senior class around the country should be applauded, no matter the decisions they receive.