PLANNING: College Admissions Advisor Michael McKinnon’s office leads to future college realities. (Photo by Emily Falconer)
PLANNING: College Admissions Advisor Michael McKinnon’s office leads to future college realities.

Photo by Emily Falconer

Unknown college plans create new application challenges

September 16, 2020

After being in quarantine and out of school for months, the class of 2021 is being faced with a new task: applying for college. While this is normally a usual task for many rising seniors, some have found it particularly difficult to figure out their futures amidst the pandemic.

Standardized tests including the SAT and ACT have been getting canceled at a constant rate by organizations such as the College Board as a result of health and safety concerns. Tests are also being canceled by local sites, including high schools and colleges, due to temporary building closures. 

Senior Syed Farhan, a DGN student that missed out on standardized testing, has found the application process to be complicated. 

Missing out on the SAT sucked because I was hoping to get my score up, and I haven’t been able to take the ACT at all because of corona,” Farhan said. I also can’t talk about applying with a teacher face to face because I opted out of going back to school, so I won’t have the same resources available to me now.”

Because some kids were unable to take their tests, they are not able to apply to non-test optional schools that are still expecting scores on transcripts. In an attempt to make things fairer, some colleges are switching to test-blind, meaning scores won’t be looked at or taken into consideration.

Despite being test-optional, many universities still use standardized test scores to award merit scholarships, and it is currently unclear how money should be granted if a student is unable to take a standardized test. Some colleges have started using GPA to award money, but that option is in the minority.

In the past, students have also relied on sports, volunteer opportunities, extracurricular activities and clubs to help boost their college applications and to earn scholarships. Now, said opportunities may have been canceled or postponed, causing another unknown on transcripts. On top of that, the chance of earning financial aid from committing to a sports team may be lost.

I had a school trip and a summer program canceled that could have enhanced my college application,” senior Lindsey Good said. “Although everyone is trying to make up for the unfortunate circumstances this year, it’s been challenging trying to find ways to make up for the lost opportunities.”

Finance concerns have also become a larger issue, with kids now deciding to stay home instead of attending a more expensive out-of-state college. Universities themselves have been amidst financial struggles, and a Forbes article reports that many private schools will be forced to close in the coming years. Within the article, colleges are contrasted to income inequality, where, “the wealthiest elite colleges are getting richer, but the most of the rest have become poorer.” 

College Admissions Advisor of College Planners of America Michael McKinnon works with high school students daily to help them prepare for college. Despite an increase in stress and franticness, McKinnon sees a bright side to the situation at hand.

“We can continue making this situation into a negative or look at the positive,” McKinnon said. “Now high school students will be even more prepared when going to college because they have had to adapt to this situation and will be further ready for work life.”

COVID-19 has impacted college visits as well, though some virtual tours have been posted. Despite this effort, some students believe in-person visits are more helpful to give students a clear view of what campus life will be like, and a lack thereof can cause more stress.

“I’m a little more anxious than I assume I would be for applying to colleges due to the pandemic. A majority of college campuses have closed campus tours, understandably, but it makes it harder to grasp what schools you truly want to go to,” Good said. “Another topic I’m concerned about when considering applying to schools is how many students who took a gap year in 2020 are applying as well, making getting into schools even more competitive than it already is.”

With uncertainty in the air from colleges all taking various directions, current seniors have been left to do individual searching to figure out scholarships, campus tours and testing situations, creating a new responsibility not seen in the past.

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