Covid-19 complicates college application process

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Graphic courtesy of Emily Mulderig

Becca Green

Some students spend years doing extracurriculars, taking tests, and studying so that they can go to the college of their choice. Applying to college is no easy task and it has become even more complicated since the arrival of COVID-19.

In the past, most universities have required standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT for a chance at admission, however this year is different. Due to the pandemic it has been difficult or almost impossible for students to be able to take the tests, which has led to many universities becoming test-optional. 

With COVID-19, travel is challenging. Additionally, many colleges have also stopped campus tours, so many students are unable to have the college tour experience. With hardly any in person classes, high school students can’t see universities in action. Instead they find an empty school—with no students or no activities on campus, solely online. To fix this, some universities have created online tours and events. The tours offer a 360 virtual tour where people can “walk” around the campus, and the events allow prospective students to talk to admissions officers, students, and more. 

Senior Roberto Reinoso was fortunately able to tour some universities such as UPenn and UVA during his junior year. “I got lucky with the test scores because Wilson offered an SAT the week before school shut down and I took it and got a score I was happy with and ended up sending it to all my schools.” He said.

When it comes to extracurriculars, he knows that college admissions offices are always looking for people with lots of activities. Reinoso was on the Wilson soccer team that has now been delayed till spring 2021. He takes guitar classes outside of school which was moved online along with the business he started with his friend. 

Reinoso explains that he has found some silver linings in applying to college during COVID, unlike many of his peers. “I personally haven’t faced many struggles in applying in large part because I started so early and I worked with a private counselor,” he said, adding that, “I’d even go so far to say because of COVID it’s been less stressful.”

“With everything online, I have way more free time. I don’t have to consider getting to and from school and I can instead spend that time doing things I want to do or need to do,” Reinoso said.

CJ Bertsch is a Wilson senior on the varsity crew team, which comes with lots of responsibility and many practices. Bertsch said that with less rowing practices due to COVID, she’s had more time to focus on her applications.

 Bertsch visited some schools prior to the pandemic while on past vacations with her family. However she was supposed to take a road trip to visit several universities, mostly on the West Coast, and two on the East Coast, but unfortunately it was since cancelled due to the pandemic. 

“Since all the campuses are shut down, it’s hard to see the school, there are no tours being held,” she explained. “I’m trying to find people who go to the schools, so they can walk around with me.” Bertsch has also been using various online resources that provide 360 views of campuses and Q&A sessions with students.

Bertsch still plans to visit some schools, but will be sure to adhere to social distancing precautions.

Before the pandemic, Bertsch had signed up to take the SAT and ACT in late March and during the summer. “I do not like standardized testing, [and] even before the pandemic I was looking at test-optional schools.” She also stated that she was going to take the tests anyway, even though she believes she can prove herself other ways such as her writing and extracurriculars. However, once they were cancelled she decided to no longer pursue testing. 

Despite the challenges, Bertsch revealed that hanging out with friends has helped, and that they’ll edit each other’s essays. “It’s nice to be able to go to friends that are in the exact same position as you,” Bertsch said.

While the global pandemic has been exhausting, Bertsch still believes there is a positive side. With more time on her hands she has been able to research more schools and without having to balance an overwhelming amount of school and training, she has been able to take more time to apply.