COVID-19 is Affecting the College Search Process

COVID-19 has affected nearly all aspects of faculty, student, and family life across the country. Under social distancing guidelines, which prohibit visiting places deemed non-essential, daily life has been altered in a way it has never been before.

COVID-19 has left a prominent mark on Hackley juniors, interfering with the college selection process. Still wondering how colleges, standardized testing, the interview process, and admission tours will function, juniors are left in a position with much confusion about how their college selection process will proceed.

A survey by Junior Achievement and Citizen Bank recorded that 57% of teenagers were concerned about how COVID-19 will affect their lives after high school. The altered college selection process is concerning for many students. While many colleges are providing online tours, information sessions, and more information about the application process, there is still much information that juniors will not be able to receive for themselves by traditional methods. Without actually attending colleges it is difficult to grasp the culture of the school and form opinions about student life.

Coronavirus has affected Junior Mary Rotenberg’s college search process and so do the changes made in the application process. The major difference she sees in the application process is in terms of standardized testing. While several colleges had already gone test-optional years ago, with the delaying of standardized testing this spring and summer, many colleges will do so as well.

In regards to how the lack of standardized testing will affect the college application process, College Counselor Rebecca Hall stated, “The College Board and the ACT are constantly making changes in regards to testing availability, and there have been many challenges in dealing with both organizations. Whereas testing has been a big factor in the college admissions process in the past, we believe it will likely have less of an impact in this year’s admissions cycle. Next winter, we’ll see what impact COVID-19 has on the college admissions process. There may be few effects at some colleges, while admission may be more difficult or easier at others, depending on a whole range of variables.”

As far as the biggest challenges for juniors going through the college application process at this time are concerned, Ms. Hall said, “The two biggest changes so far have been in regards to campus visits and standardized testing. The fact that students can’t see campuses in person is incredibly frustrating for many of our students, but we are helping them navigate the resources that are available to them to learn more about each school.”

Spring break is the common time for juniors to view colleges, but many of them were not able to get a sense of which schools would be a good fit for them. “It’s hard to figure out exactly what I want in a school because I only got to see two before everything shut down,” Mary said.

Many colleges have tried to solve this issue by running “virtual tours.” Junior Will Gannon explained some of the pros and cons of these tours; “They are sometimes difficult to navigate and the perception of the campus is limited, as you can only see what the camera sees rather than there in person.” Will says that it has been difficult to get a deeper sense of the school in the sense of community because schools have been highlighting certain areas of their campus in virtual tours rather than showing the full campus.

Will also explained how Hackley college counselors are helping juniors through these difficult times. He says that he has been able to meet with his college counselor three times and that the three sessions have been very productive; “With the information they’ve provided, I am able to prepare for interviews adequately now and also have a good sense of what to do for letters of recommendation.”

Ms. Hall explained some of the many resources Hackley’s college counseling has provided for the rising senior class ranging from parent conferences, one on one meetings with students, and mock interviews.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 will make the class of 2021’s college process much different from the prior classes, yet it has been made clear that Hackley will be moving forward in a manner that will support students as well as they can through this difficult time.