College application process hampered by pandemic

Taya Abraham, Features Editor

In the age of COVID-19, a transition to virtual schooling has caused the already stressful process of applying to colleges to be altered for the Class of 2021.

Even though the application process is normally completed online, this year, seniors have been unable to talk face-to-face with admissions counselors or other teachers for advice or answers to questions. Instead, these discussions must take place over the phone or on a Zoom call. On top of that, many schools are conducting virtual tours of their campuses, causing it to be difficult for possible applicants to get an ‘in-person’ feel of the college. However, for students like senior Katherine Schreiner, who toured colleges prior to the outbreak of the virus, the application process has been easier. Instead, she said her recruitment process for golf was affected the most due to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) prohibiting colleges from recruiting athletes during the summer of 2020.

“I started visiting colleges the summer after sophomore year, so I already had my school picked out before Covid. The only thing Covid affected was the recruitment process. Golf recruits off of how you play over the summer, and the NCAA had a recruiting ‘dead’ period, meaning they couldn’t watch me play,” Schreiner said. 

Schreiner committed to Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana during late September. With it being the only school she applied to, Schreiner used The Common Application (Common App). Common App is a non-profit membership organization that represents about 900 different institutions of higher education across all 50 of the U.S. states as well as 20 countries. As stated by their website, their goal is to make the application process simpler for high school graduates. Senior Ruth Vogel said applying to colleges was made more stressful by not having the in-person experience of learning about the application process. 

“I was really stressed out and was already thinking about applying to schools and scholarships prior to Covid. When COVID-19 happened, a new wave of stress came over me,” Vogel said. “I had too many meltdowns about where I wanted to go and how my decision would affect my future. Firstly, instead of having in-person meetings about financial aid, scholarships, and applications, we had Zoom meetings. They were good for what we could get, but without that one-on-one understanding, it was difficult to fully comprehend all of the important applications we needed to fill out. I didn’t think that I needed to fill out my applications all by myself, but I did and it was nerve-racking.”

For others, like senior Matt Haley, COVID-19 has not majorly impacted applications. Haley is committed to Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois for baseball. While he was unable to play high school baseball last spring, he was still able to play travel-ball over the summer. Therefore, he said applying to colleges was simple for him.

“The application process was very easy. All I had to do was fill out my apartment information and sign my national letter of intent, and that’s all of the work I had to do to apply. I was fortunate enough to be able to tour the campus in-person and get to see all of the facilities and even a live practice to see how they work. Covid has not made a large impact in my application process thus far, and I am hoping it stays that way,” Haley said. 

On the other hand, Vogel, a player on the girls’ lacrosse team, lost her junior season after COVID-19 first hit, costing her the opportunity of having a ‘normal’ recruitment process. Instead, Vogel got the chance to practice with Rockhurst University’s girls’ lacrosse team, allowing her to meet the coach and the players. She will be playing lacrosse and majoring in nursing at the Kansas City school next fall. Although, she said that if the virus had not happened, she would be going to Maryville University. 

“Originally before COVID, I was really interested in Maryville. However, over this crazy year, I reflected and really processed what my options were. I think that if COVID-19 did not happen, I probably would have picked Maryville. However, I am glad that I chose Rockhurst because I realized that I truly fit in with that school. COVID-19, although stressful when it came to sports and applying to schools, allowed me to have time to focus and really think about my decisions,” Vogel said. 

In addition, since some students are unable to take the ACT or SAT, a number of colleges are waiving standardized test requirements amid COVID-19. According to Fair Test, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, over two-thirds of four-year universities in the U.S. will not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall of 2021 admission. Some colleges went further and got rid of ACT and SAT scores as an admissions requirement for the next four years, making the test-optional through 2024, as stated by the New York Times. The Coronavirus pandemic has, henceforth, altered the application process for not only the Class of 2021 but the following graduating classes as well.