The college application process has never been an easy task. With standardized tests, college essays, and letters of recommendation, every step of the process can be equally frustrating and stressful. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, this process just got a lot harder. Neither college visits, demonstrated interest, nor test requirements look remotely the same way as they did in previous years. The Class of 2021 had to navigate this difficult task of applying to colleges. Senior Anna Baird-Hassell states that “many college requirements changed, and it was difficult to ask for advice from people older than me, because, even though they had gone through the college application process, they couldn’t speak to how the pandemic might change things.” She emphasized that this “made it even more important to stay updated on constantly changing information put out by colleges.”
One key step in the process is finding the right “fit”. Applicants are encouraged to visit the schools they’re considering in order to get the opportunity to talk to the students and observe campus life. This way, they can get a sense of whether the school provides the type of environment that they’re looking for, which will help them to narrow down their list and eventually decide where they will go. The pandemic makes it difficult, almost impossible for students to visit schools due to travel restrictions. Some schools are banning college visits altogether. Senior Ava Voight notes that, “the biggest challenge has probably been figuring out which colleges to apply to. Usually college tours help figure out which schools should make up our college lists, and we had to decide without being able to see the campus, which was definitely difficult.”
Another major change this year is the lack of standardized testing. The pandemic is making it difficult for students to find testing sites. Fortunately, the list of test-optional schools has significantly grown as a result of the shutdown, giving students the option of not submitting their test scores and possibly not taking the SAT or ACT at all.
Perhaps the most unnerving aspect of this year’s atypical process is the need for an open mind. In contrast to what one might think, the pandemic has made it harder to get accepted as schools are experiencing a major influx of applicants. The CHS Chronicle spoke to CHS College and Career Counselor Ms. Sleight, who added that, “the biggest challenge is the uncertainty. There is always a level of uncertainty associated with the college admissions process, but this year makes it especially difficult to advise students. I have spoken to some colleges who say their application numbers have increased astronomically. For that reason, the counseling office and I have really emphasized managing expectations and building college lists that have a lot of variety. We also have emphasized advising students on different options that may exist outside of the traditional 4-year college process.”
For students planning to major in performing arts, the process is completely different, even in a typical year. Applicants are required to submit prescreens: audition videos needed to qualify for live auditions. When applicants pass prescreens for certain schools, they can attend National Unified Auditions, an event where students can audition for a variety of performing arts universities simultaneously. Now, since in-person auditions not possible, auditions are being held live on Zoom. Grace Petersen, who is applying for musical theatre, commented on the atypical nature of this year’s audition format: “applying to college for musical theatre is a roller coaster in a normal year; most students apply to upwards of 15 schools, travel across the country to audition, and cram into crowded convention halls during National Unified Auditions. This year, the process has been flipped on its head.” Andrew Palmieri adds that “instead of flying all over the country to schools to audition in person, all auditions were on Zoom from home which was definitely interesting because I’ve never auditioned for something from my house before.”
The college application process can definitely be overwhelming and unnerving, especially this year, but luckily CHS’s amazing counseling department has found ways to significantly reduce the stress of students applying to college. Current juniors and seniors can check out the Counseling section of the CHS website (under the College and Career tab) both for information posted pre-Covid, and also the new “Covid Post-CHS Planning Guide,” developed during the pandemic to help students during these uncertain times. Students can also check out Naviance for additional helpful resources.