What challenges do seniors face while navigating college admissions during a pandemic?

Hailey Gray, Staff Reporter

Every year, senior students enter a stressful time period in which they begin to complete college applications. Under normal circumstances, these students can visit their potential colleges, attend college fairs and even get one on one assistance from the college and career counselors.

However, this year, the class of 2021 is at a disadvantage thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Although things are much different all around, college applications are still in action, with some different aspects. Unlike in previous years, colleges and universities are giving students the opportunity to apply to schools as “test optional,” meaning an SAT or ACT score is not required to be in one’s application. Some students are using this to their advantage, while others depend on these scores to represent them as a student. 

“I think the option to apply ‘test optional’ is beneficial because some students have good GPAs so they shouldn’t have to worry about their test scores unless they choose to take it,” Aryan Patel, a senior at EGHS, said. 

This test optional policy is unique to the class of 2021. Since the start of the pandemic, several testing sessions have been cancelled or postponed, making it difficult for students to take the test even if they want to take it. Students who have not taken the test by the spring will take the test at their school as a graduation requirement. 

“What is difficult is how colleges are now going to respond to losing one piece of information when considering students,” Anthony Miocic, a postsecondary counselor at Elk Grove High School, said. “The response will most likely be that your grades are now even more important than ever before.”

Many, if not all, colleges and universities require applicants to either self-report their grades or send an official transcript as a part of the application. Without a test score, grades are one of the only academic representations of each student in their application. 

Sure everyone has a unique story, and colleges do care to hear that story, but for the most part your grades right now are just like your grades at this time last year,” Miocic said.  “Last spring is a different story, colleges know that kids were hit hard and quick with remote learning. Teachers were trying to figure it out, kids, everyone. So last spring definitely has a little wiggle room.”

According to Miocic, financial aid applications like FAFSA are down in numbers. This year, filing a FAFSA is a graduation requirement for seniors so they are hoping to see more completions by the end of December. Postsecondary counselors are working to find a way to help all students get these done. 

Aside from the application process, the class of 2021 is also completely missing out on what is supposed to be one of the most exciting years of their lives. 

“Everyone is affected by COVID, but seniors especially are this year. It doesn’t even feel like we’re seniors because we aren’t even in school,” EGHS senior Morgan Leach said. 

College is such a significant time in life, so finding the right school for seniors is imperative. This is why high schools host college fairs where students can see what each university has to offer. This is also why students visit campuses before committing, so they can see if this a place they can call home.

Seniors are finding that doing these things virtually does not have the same effect.

“I think that seniors have been dealt a really tough hand,” Miocic said. “Unlike the 2020 kids, you’ve lost the time to visit colleges, you’ve missed fairs where colleges come visit us, you’ve missed so many things that impact kids psychologically that I do feel like the class of 2021 has it rough.”

Although it is without a doubt a difficult time for seniors full of lots of uncertainty, asking for help when needed can be very beneficial for seniors, counselors say. 

“This year is going to go by quick after winter break,” Miocic said. “It does every year for seniors, so if any senior is reading this thinking, ‘I really still need to ‘insert thing here,’ I would highly recommend starting. Reach out to me with any questions. Your counselor can help too. Anyone. We are all here to help with this process so please do not hesitate to ask.”