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The College Process and the Pandemic

The 2021 college commitment process has been made no easier by our omnipresent friend Corona; as if deciding which university logo crewneck to snag off of the merch site wasn’t hard enough, having to make a decision for the next four years of one’s life seems impossible when schools are so out of reach. Taking a painful family road-trip to visit a campus isn’t so simple when it’s coupled by the challenges of masks and quarantines, aside from the traditional battle for the window seats. Today we’re going to talk about how the college process, and college commitments, have changed in the year of the pandemic, and some ways to make that decision just a little bit easier.

Long gone are the days of 12-hour long campus tours, admitted student events, and the realizations that cafeteria food never really gets better, even in college. Visiting campuses as quickly gone from a college process staple to an anomaly, as prospective students are relegated to browsing Google for images of their could-be campus. While it may seem a simple fix to scour the internet for videos and pictures to get a feel for the school, it isn’t nearly the same as the real thing; the images of the incredible collegiate dorm rooms, lecture halls, and libraries are highly staged and doctored to draw students in, and aren’t representative of the typical freshman experience. Not only do universities often publish only the best of the best, but it’s impossible to get that feeling that happens when you step onto the campus that’s just right. You may fall in love with a school from a Google Image search, but the spark might sputter out as soon as your feet hit the university pavement.

Not only has there never been a harder time to choose a college, but the admissions process itself rivals its difficulty; what with cancelled SAT’s, grades plummeting due to stress and uncertainty, all with the backdrop of a pandemic and political unrest, figuring out how to get into college seems unbearable. Like many of my peers, my first soirée with the SAT was demolished by initial pandemic closures, thus prompting a wave of colleges to forgo the typically necessary admissions exam. With the pinnacle of high school academic achievement no longer necessary, it can feel impossible to know what exactly schools are looking for. If a 1450 won’t get me in, what will? Not to mention scrambling for the only clubs, sports, or job opportunities available during the pandemic can make the all-important resumès look sparse. Aside from healthy, dedicated students, we truly aren’t sure what the colleges want.

My best advice? Do. Your. Research. Not just a skim over the Wikipedia page, dig deep; if our generation can determine the exact longitude and latitude coordinates of Timothee Chalamet, we can absolutely do proper college research. It’s certainly not as fun, but it’s much more attainable. Be a nerd, make some spreadsheets. Include some serious information about the programs and tuitions, and then the actual important stuff, like mascots, colors, and the quality of the dorms and food; do you really want to be stuck in brown and orange for the next four years? The more you actually invest into researching the schools you’ve applied to, the easier it will be to choose one when the time comes. Creating clear documents of all the nitty gritty details of each school can help you compare them to one another, and weigh the pros and cons of each as you move through the process.

The college process is hard. All of high school and all of college have been and will be hard, but it’s all worth it in the end, as long as you’ve managed to get a good crewneck

-Skyler Sena

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