Pandemic disrupts college applications
November 3, 2020
Editor’s note: This story was named an honorable mention for news-feature stories in the 2021 TAJE Best of Texas contest.
The pandemic altered how students apply to college this year, pushing college-bound seniors to change their plans. Some testing centers postponed SAT and ACT tests multiple times throughout the spring and summer, so schools like the University of North Texas and Texas A&M are not requiring test scores. Campuses across the country are also closed to visits and in-person meetings. While every senior’s experience is different, they have all faced new challenges.
Senior Boris Fosso is applying to Harvard, Princeton and Rice among other top colleges. He plans to study the pre-med track.
Fosso says that besides academics, the school’s environment is important to him.
“One big thing is the community, the people they attract, people who are like minded and that have the same drive and goals that I do,” Fosso said. “Being around those people will push me further and help push them further.”
However, Fosso was not able to visit any of the schools in person. He has attended virtual information sessions, which he says were not as helpful.
“You don’t really get a sense of the college atmosphere as much,” Fosso said. “So I didn’t have as good an understanding of what the college is like, what they offer.”
Because of the pandemic, Fosso says that applications have become more unclear.
“It’s the level of uncertainty, not just what the college is like, but also what the application expects now that COVID did happen,” Fosso said. “We’ve had the whole summer and part of the school year taken away, and just how they’re going to accomodate to that.”
However, Fosso says that he feels prepared to take on the challenge.
“I don’t think it’ll be too difficult because I think if I can find an hour or two a day just to work on college applications, the time’s going to build up,” Fosso said. “When it gets to December or January when I’ll turn in the application, I’ll have it broken down, and I’ll have it all done and ready.”
Fosso says that his career goals have changed due to the coronavirus. He wishes to open a non-profit hospital to offer healthcare to the less fortunate.
“My goal has always been to become a neurosurgeon,” Fosso said. “But since the pandemic started, I started hearing about a lot of struggles that people were going through, and I just felt that I connect with that on a deep level.”
Senior Yasmeen Siddiqi has been seeking out cheer scholarships. However, due to the coronavirus, the recruiting process looks different this year.
“Given the circumstances with COVID, everything got canceled in the spring and over the summer, so I’ve just been working on recording videos and contacting the coaches via email,” Siddiqi said.
Because colleges closed their doors in the spring, Siddiqi was only able to tour a limited number of campuses in person. She said that because of that, she reduced the amount of schools she has applied to.
Siddiqi says she finds it important to experience a school for herself. For her, virtual tours do not offer the same experience.
“Going to college, being on the campus and seeing the culture is really important to me, and I want to feel like I’m at home,” Siddiqi said. “So doing that virtually was definitely a struggle just because I don’t know what the campus would feel like if I were on it personally.”
Since cheer recruitments went virtual, Siddiqi made an effort to form bonds with potential coaches and teammates.
“It’s been hard just because I want to build a personal connection with the coaches and the girls on the team now,” Siddiqi said. “But I’m also thankful for social media, because I’ve been able to connect with the girls on the team. And I’m thankful that I can email the coaches and keep in touch through that.”
Siddiqi tries to maintain a positive attitude.
“It’s just been a passion ever since I first began getting to cheer in front of crowds and it’s made me who I am as a person and just such a leader,” Siddiqi said. “So even despite all the circumstances, I just have this dream of cheering in college so I don’t let anything stop me from that.”
Senior Liv Hendrick visited Louisiana State University during Memorial Day weekend. According to Hendrick, who will study film, her group wore masks and had social distancing measures in place.
Hendrick attended virtual college tours as well. Compared to the in-person campus visit, she says that she did not connect with the college as well.
“It felt so impersonal to take a virtual tour,” Hendrick said. “It felt very rushed. I felt like asking questions was weird. It was just not a great experience.”
Like many other students, Hendrick had trouble with finding testing dates for the SAT, which were pushed back multiple times.
“It was very frustrating,” Hendrick said. “It definitely made me feel like I didn’t want to do it anymore because I’d prep and prep and prep and the night before [it would] get canceled.”
Once she was able to find an SAT testing date, it was during the height of the pandemic, according to Hendrick. She spent eight hours in a location four hours away to test. Hendrick took the SAT offered during the school day on Oct. 27.
Hendrick says even though it has been challenging, the pandemic is a learning experience for her.
“This was a test of my patience that I had been unprepared for,” Hendrick said. “But I’m grateful because it gave me new challenges and things to work through to prepare me for my life in the coming future.”
However, Hendrick finds comfort in the fact that many seniors are in the same boat as her and she hopes they feel the same way.
“I understand the stress and they are not alone,” Hendrick said. “It’s overwhelming and I think that we’re all going to get through this together.”