Navigating College Applications During a Pandemic


Emily Huhn, Arts & Living Editor

As 2020 comes to a close, the college admissions process closes with it, and high school seniors can add the process of applying to college to the list of stressful things they no longer need to think about. As if applying to colleges was not hard enough, we’ve spent the last months learning to navigate the world of Common App in the middle of a global pandemic.

The application process started with deliberating what colleges I actually wanted to apply to, which brought on a difficult set of challenges. With COVID-19 restrictions, especially in states that are far away, visiting the schools in person that I was interested in was not always an option. Virtual tours and Zoom meetings with college advisors became a tool that my friends and I used frequently to get the inside scoop on a specific college without making the journey to walk around the actual university. Choosing a college that is going to fit all of your specific needs is really challenging, with or without a deadly virus shutting everything down. This year, however,  it became increasingly more challenging since we do not know what the world will look like next month, let alone what it will look like when we begin our fall semester later this year. Choosing a college that would accommodate my immediate needs due to the pandemic as well as help me achieve my long term goals was something I really needed to consider. 

Once I had made my decisions about criteria such as living arrangements, majors, and what area geographically I wanted to go to school in, I compiled a list of about six schools to which I decided to apply to. Throughout high school, I depended on my guidance counselor to help me make decisions about my future. With school currently being on a hybrid schedule and some students converting to fully remote learning, it was difficult to get their help with college applications and obtaining the school documents I needed to submit. Thankfully, my experience didn’t turn out to be too difficult and I found it fairly easy to request the documents I needed since most of the college application process can now be done online. 

Financial aid was one more thing on the list that seemed like a giant weight looming over me. My parents handled the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms and made sure everything was submitted correctly and on time so that the burden of college tuition would not hit us as hard as it could otherwise. Financial aid and scholarships are a really important part of applying to college, especially now in 2021 when so many families have increasingly struggled economically in the last year. 

Worst of all was the application deadlines. The Early Decision and Early Action deadlines crept up really fast. Many of my classmates were trying to juggle regular schoolwork while also filling out applications and attending virtual interviews and tours. Procrastination is never a good thing, especially when it involves something that dictates your entire future. I will admit that I put off a few steps in the process due to the sheer lack of motivation after being stuck in the house for almost a year.

I am writing this after I have come out on the other side of college applications during COVID-19. I am proud to say that I have submitted all of my applications and have gotten into two prestigious schools, one with a generous scholarship. Everyone’s situation is different and when applying to college there is always bound to be some level of disappointment at various points. However, even in a year when so many things went wrong, I find it so refreshing to be thinking about the future and to be imagining myself as a college student in a time when all of the odds are stacked against us. Even if you feel like giving up, or the anxiety of waiting for that status screen to update or that letter to come in the mail has just become too much, just know that everything will turn out the way it is meant to be and the Class of 2021 can overcome anything that is thrown at us.