College Curveballs

Coronavirus creates new challenges for college applications

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Jessie Larrinaga

Many seniors are currently working on their college applications. New challenges to the application process were created as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the new stressors students have had to deal with is showing continuity in extracurricular activities despite many things this year being cancelled or moved online.

Jessie Larrinaga, Managing Editor

College applications are something that have always been considered stressful and challenging. Every year students complain about the deadlines, the stress of writing and editing essays, and then worrying about whether they got in or not. But this year, COVID-19 has added a swath of new things for students to be on-edge about. 

The virus has invaded every aspect of life, but in terms of applying to colleges, it’s created many issues for students that are unsure of where they want to go, people who prioritized their involvement in certain extracurricular activities and has created new obstacles for getting applications ready in time.  

Seniors who haven’t decided where they want to attend school – whether their options are in or out-of-state – are faced with new questions as a result of the pandemic. If the virus hasn’t been handled by the time they enroll in their college, will they even be able to attend school on-campus? If not, students are faced with a decision over whether it’s worth it to pay for an out-of-state college education despite the possibility of having to attend classes from home.  

Almost every college will assert that their college admission process is “wholistic.” I’ve heard admissions officers say that a hundred times in the visits I’ve attended. This means that they weigh your academic achievements as highly as your personal ones – and place emphasis on extracurriculars and things you’re involved with outside of school.  

The problem that the virus causes with this is that many clubs, service activities and sports have either been stopped or had to go online in order to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus. It is difficult for students to show the things they care about when many of the activities they would normally participate in have been halted.  

While many schools are trying to be understanding of the life changes caused by the virus, it can still be stressful to have to worry about whether it’s possible to show dedication when there aren’t many things to dedicate time to outside of school.  

An example of this can be seen because community service hours are required for scholarships such as the Bright Futures. Over the four years of high school, students are told to get a certain number of service hours in order to qualify for this scholarship. 

Many students already have reached the required hours, but some had been counting on their senior year to get the final number that is needed. This is going to be very challenging right now because volunteering can be risky with the virus, and many service programs are shut down because of COVID-19.  

Getting application elements finalized by the deadline is yet another thing that has become more of a hassle with the occurrence of the pandemic.  

Some students are doing e-learning because of family members that are at a higher-risk of falling seriously ill from the coronavirus, and other online students are simply doing what they can to limit the spread.  

While this has certain benefits, one of the downsides is added difficulty in forming positive relationships with educators. For college applications, students are often required to have teacher or guidance counselor letters of recommendation. It can be difficult to ask a teacher to write a letter about how amazing you are when you’ve had little to no in-person contact.  

Some people are resorting to asking teachers they had in previous years, but it’s unfortunate that the virus is hindering the ability to have a great recommendation simply because of outside factors.  

Worries about whether teachers can really give an accurate representation of a student they haven’t been able to form a solid relationship with are something that wasn’t much of an issue before the pandemic.  

College applications have always been considered a stressful and important part of high school, but now students are being faced with additional challenges because of the virus. Being aware that lots of people are struggling with the same issues can help seniors to feel like they’re not in this alone.