The quest for college… during a pandemic? 


Felicity Way 

When one thinks about their senior year in high school, college is topic thawould up. Students writing essays, stressing over the SAT and ACT, getting teacher recommendations and just choosing where to apply are only a few steps to launch their future beyond high school. 

This year would have been like any other year for seniors, but for the class of 2021, COVID-19 has changed the entire college application process and experience to be unlike any other in the past. 

Senior Isabella Way has described the overall process during the pandemic as, “Stressful. Pretty much as stressful as it would have been if we were in person. But the pandemic has made it more stressful because more colleges are test optional.”  

Due to the pandemic and limited opportunities to take the SAT and ACT, many colleges have changed certain aspects of their applications. One of those aspects is most colleges being test optional, meaning that it is not required to include the SAT or ACT scores in your application. There are even some colleges that are test blind, meaning that the colleges will not accept any SAT or ACT test scores in applications to their schools. But the most common for colleges’ applications is test optional. Some colleges are even staying test optional or blind for the next few years, so this will apply for future seniors in the coming years too. 

Although Isabella mentioned that colleges being test optional are a disadvantage to applications, there are also advantages to it too. She added, “One of the advantages is test optional, because I can apply, and I have a pretty good chance of getting into colleges that I thought I would have never applied to, especially the Ivy’s and other top tier universities. 

Isabella is referencing schools like Princeton, Brown, and Rice, which are a few of the schools that she is applying and hoping to get into. Those schools’ students usually had very high SAT and ACT scores from high school, but now those colleges can’t depend on those standardized test scores as much when reviewing student applications. So, there is a greater likelihood of getting into certain colleges regardless of whether students took either standardized test. 

Yet, there are still more disadvantages in applying to college this year due to the pandemic. She stated, “Because we are not at school, I have to email the counselor and ideally I would like to talk to them in person so that I know the best places for me to apply and how I can improve my application. 

Students now have limited abilities to tour colleges in person, so instead they tour through videos online. It is also hard to be able to talk to students in person who go to those colleges or are alumni from those colleges. Also, they don’t have the ability to go to college fairs. 

The college application process in general is stressful, exciting, and can be daunting at times. Advice that Isabella would give for applying to college to other seniors now and in the future is, “Start early. Make a spreadsheet to stay organized, and don’t stress about doing the SAT or ACT because most colleges are test optional.”  

The path to college may be rocky for this year’s and the next few years for seniors, having more limits on many aspects of their applications. But this can’t hold them back from following their aspirations for the future.