Virtual College Applications Add to Stress During the Pandemic

Seniors walk us through their experience with the college application with help from Counselor Lee Brown.

Maya Taylor and Nancy Anderson

As coronavirus numbers spike, seniors are pushing through their last year of high school, virtually, including college applications. Colleges are offering many online resources to assist students during this difficult process. A year ago, virtual college tours would not even be a possibility. Now, colleges offer virtual tours of their campuses and online Zoom meetings to inform students on what they offer.          

The common application is the process most schools use for students to apply. Other schools will use Individual College Applications where the application only pertains to that specific school. 

One student, Christina Lewandowski, completed two different types of applications. Christina applied to Oregon State University, New York University and University of Washington. OSU and NYU use Common Application and UW uses The Coalition Application. There are multiple challenges that students face with college applications. 

Christina says “I hate how competitive it is with like the scholarships, the essays, and how overall expensive it is.” This is apparent every year. College admissions are no easy task and getting through them can feel like “I’m racing against everyone,” Christina stated.

 Another issue seniors face this year is not being able to see the campus and learn about everything they offer. 

“My brother goes to OSU and he tells me everything about it so I know a lot about it,” Christina said. 

Universally, taking gap years has always been popular for students in the past, taking a break from their academic track to gain life experience, travel, and explore their study/career options. 85 percent of students taking a gap year travel and experience other cultures, 28% gain work experience, and 48% take time to volunteer. This year, however, is different from other years.

Luckily, this has not been the case for all LHS students who work with counselor Lee Brown. When asked if students were less motivated to apply to as many colleges this year, he said, “I haven’t. Our application numbers for this year’s seniors look encouragingly normal. It’s nice to have something look normal this year.”

At LHS, last year, there were very few gap students. This year, more seniors might be considering the possibility of taking a gap year due to COVID-19. Another student, Grace Rooney, talked about her thought process while applying for colleges. “Yes I’ve definitely considered it”, says Grace when on the topic of gap years. When asked whether it was for coronavirus reasons or other personal reasons, Grace responded, “Since I’m going to school for like eight years I want to get started early, but a gap year would definitely be nice because of Covid.”

Students who were not planning on taking a break from college in the first place may be thinking about it more and more. Some seniors apply to colleges for the sole purpose of liking the campus. With online school, they would not get to enjoy the campus as they previously would have. With almost hitting 300K COVID-19 deaths in the United States, it does not look hopeful for some colleges to return back to campus soon. 

The fact that many are currently paying for an at-home college experience means that many 2020 graduates looked at the college decisions differently.

“Last year’s seniors expressed their concern in terms of dollars and sense…Their question was, ‘Does it make sense to spend a lot of money for classes I’ll be taking online?’” said Brown. Many students want the true college experience of leaving their homes, going to class, having a roommate, going to parties, and exploring the campus. Given the current state of affairs, some colleges are closed and fully online, putting a damper on their experience. 

Another hit to the seniors applying to colleges are the cancellations of the SAT and ACT throughout 2020. For LHS students, starting back in March, every nearby SAT test was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

Some students at Lakeridge were not able to participate in these standardized tests, causing distress among many. Luckily, most colleges are waiving their SAT and ACT requirements. But, some still desire to take these tests for scholarship reasons. “The SAT was cancelled four times for me”, says Grace, who went all the way to Montana to take this test. 

“I took an SAT class this year in hopes to do well on the test, but it kept getting cancelled,” added Grace. “I thought I could do well on it so I went to Montana to take it so I could try to get scholarships.”

The college application process can be very intimidating for some students, even more so now that everything is done virtually. Usually seniors would have in person guided help with teachers and counselors but now that everyone has been faced with the current circumstances, zoom meetings will have to suffice. We asked Brown how the applications have been different for him personally. “Believe it or not, the college application process at LHS has been electronic since 2006, so the big difference for me this fall has been meeting with seniors virtually and answering their questions via email,” responds Brown. 

College applications can be very stressful. It is best to create a to-do list or spreadsheet to plan out what colleges you would want to attend and when they are due. Brown gives some guidance to seniors and future seniors to make the applications less stressful, especially during the time where stress is not lacking. “In order to make the application process less stressful, start as early as possible,” Brown advises. “I guess the takeaway here for future LHS seniors is, do your research, start your application process as early as possible, and apply to a reasonable number of schools that includes an academic and financial safety school..”.