Senior struggles with college applications during the era of COVID-19

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Illustration by Bri Davis

Seniors have a wide variety of colleges to pick from as they search for the school that is right for them.

“It feels like you’re taking your pants off in front of a whole crowd.”

That is how senior Amina Aser describes her college applications process. The fear of being vulnerable to those close to you is at its height as students write their personal college essays, creating doubt about the rest of the process.

Seniors have adapted to the changes brought about by COVID-19, especially with the college applications process. According to CNBC, “13% [of students] changed the school they planned to attend” because of the effects of the pandemic. 

“It’s stressing me out that I can only visit two of my schools because no one else is offering tours,” senior Tori Fischer said. “I’ve attended a lot of virtual visits for the colleges [I would like to go to] but I don’t know how I am going to choose eventually, there’s just not much to go off of a picture or video of a college you really want to go to.” 

It’s stressing me out that I can only visit two of my schools because no one else is offering tours. I’ve attended a lot of virtual visits for the colleges [I would like to go to] but I don’t know how I am going to choose eventually.”

— Tori Fischer

Some seniors have not had the chance to apply to any colleges yet with worries about not picking the right choice.

“I am still working on picking what schools to pick with the help of my counselor and getting an application tutor. I am basing it off of my grade-point average and what I can bring to the college,” Aser said. “The hardest part is finding a starting point.”

Some students have started the process, but are having a difficult time meeting deadlines as they collide with their school life.

“My deadline was Nov. 1 and I really only realized how close that was about three weeks before the deadline,” senior Tengis Kelley said. “I really meant to start earlier, but my school schedule often got in the way. Having four advancement placement classes for the first quarter definitely came with their own workload.”

Many colleges changed their admission process. Students now have the opportunity to go test-optional if they do not want to send their standardized test scores, but what students do not know is if they will face penalties for not submitting their scores.

“[Indiana University] accepted me, they just denied my admission to the Kelley School of Business, informing me that I would need to submit a test score in order to be admitted,” senior Sara Marks said. “They didn’t say why they needed my score, they just said they wouldn’t be able to admit me without it.”

With deadlines approaching, seniors are finding alternative ways to ensure that their applications are completed in spite of the limited resources available.

“I feel like I have less opportunities to sit down with someone and go over my application to get it as great as possible since everything has to be online,” Aser said. “I feel like I don’t have all of the pieces to make a worthwhile application because I don’t have that many connections.”

Students are also finding the scholarship process difficult. In fact, the number of high school seniors filling out the Federal Student Aid [FAFSA] has dropped by 16% compared to last year’s numbers due to uncertainties growing from the pandemic. 

“I am feeling quite anxious about the scholarships and figuring out how much money I can get from my schools to make my final decision,” senior Isabel Collop said. “It is becoming hard to figure out all of the things I need for college [while] not being in school.”