ELIZA BROWN/SAGAMORE STAFF
Every year, millions of high school students head into the college admissions process thinking they know what to expect. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented change to the future.
Countless numbers of colleges and universities nationwide have altered components of their admission system, while many seniors have had to adapt to the challenges of doing almost every part of the process through a screen.
For the foreseeable future, many colleges decided to make their schools test optional due to widespread SAT and ACT cancellations made by the College Board. Director of Undergraduate Admission at Boston College, Grant Gosselin, said what they are seeing in regards to their test optional policy.
“Our applicants are smart. If they see a bridge, and they realize that their scores may benefit them, they’re probably more likely to submit them than if they were on the lower side,” Gosselin said. “We have seen an increase in overall averages for our applicants, and a small increase for those that we’ve admitted so far. We’ve said all along that students that don’t submit scores are not going to be penalized in the process and we are really holding true to that.”
One challenge is that students are not able to go on in-person tours of college campuses. Many colleges are currently offering virtual information sessions, tours and are planning on offering optional one-on-one tours for admitted students.
Some students were lucky enough to tour schools before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but many were left relying on virtual tours and information sessions. According to senior Tamar Paserman, visiting an empty campus is not the same as visiting one in any normal year.
“One thing that was hard was not being able to get a tour on campus while there were other students there,” Paserman said. “I was able to visit a few colleges that I applied to that are nearby [in] New England, but it was empty and there was no one there, so it was harder to see and grasp the vibe of the school.”
Senior Daniella Coyle said not all of the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic brought are completely negative.
“In some ways, it [COVID-19] made things more convenient. Interviews, for example, could be done virtually. Also, a lot of schools are test optional now, which was relieving to me,” Coyle said.
With the future so uncertain, students are left wondering whether schools will be held in person next year. Guidance and College Counselor Lenny Libenzon said many students are thinking about how schools will be run in the fall.
“People are trying to figure out if the school is going to be remote or not, especially if it comes with a hefty price. They need to pay a lot of money for the school, so it will be a big question whether to go or to take a year off and wait,” Libenzon said. “At this point, nobody knows what it’s going to be like next year. I am hearing students talking about it because we’re all hopeful that we’ll be back in session in person next year.”
Many colleges are receiving different amounts of applications than they have in years past. Dean of Admissions at Bridgewater State University, Gregg Meyers, said the university has had fluctuations in their applications.
“We are currently down about 10% with our application pool, but we are catching up every week. I think a lot of students are just behind in the application process because their high school experience is so different right now,” Myers said. “Actually, our number of applications from non-Massachusetts residents is up right now.”
After spending almost a whole year in our homes with a lot of time to spare, many students used that time to their advantage, whether it be to start selling masks or develop a nonprofit. Gosselin said while Boston College noticed if their applicants did or created anything unique during the pandemic, they do not have a standard expectation for what they wish students accomplished.
“We realize that many students were directly affected, and some were indirectly affected. We’ve seen essays of students that have reflected on the change of pace as well as the challenges some have specifically had, and the things that they’ve accomplished as a result of this free time. And others, we also recognize, did not have that luxury,” Gosselin said.
Gosselin said even through everything that’s happened in the past few months and how much it has affected the college process, he is still optimistic for the 2021 school year.
“Students have really risen to the challenge while it’s not the same experience by any means that it used to be,” Gosselin said. “I’m optimistic that not only we will be open, but as more people are able to get the vaccine that if nothing else, the level of anxiety that we all feel will be reduced a little.”