Perspective: Applying to College During COVID-19

Photo Courtesy of Grace J. Kim

Photo Courtesy of Grace J. Kim

The COVID-19 pandemic has, and continues to, affect many aspects of students’ education, including the college admissions process. This pandemic has affected the school system and how students learn in many negative ways. However, even with these new circumstances, there are positive effects, whether easily noticeable or not. As a senior this year, I find it important to look specifically at how this pandemic has impacted the college admissions processes in both positive and negative ways. But regardless of whether or not you are a senior this year, I believe that the pandemic will in some way affect your college application experience. For example, many colleges and universities are test-optional right now, and they may stay that way for future students.  

Many colleges have changed components of their admissions processes, such as going test-optional or offering virtual tours and informational sessions. I sent out a google form to some of my fellow seniors in hopes of finding out more about their thoughts on the impacts of COVID-19 on the college admissions processes. One question I asked them was, “What are positive effects of the pandemic on the college admissions and/or application process(es) that you have heard of, experienced, and/or learned about?” A common answer was that many colleges and universities are going test-optional, which makes the application process less stressful. Kacie Shimizu ‘21 commented, “I think colleges going test-optional is a positive aspect of the updated admissions process because people may feel that standardized testing isn’t the most effective way to showcase their intelligence. This way, we have a choice to send or keep our scores for the purpose of accurately depicting what kind of a student we are. Colleges will go about the admissions process with a more holistic approach, considering other factors and elements that one will bring to their school.” 

On the other hand, I also asked, “What are negative effects of the pandemic on the college admissions and/or application process(es) that you have experienced, heard of, and/or learned about?” I saw that many people commented on how the pandemic has impacted students by not allowing them to take on-campus tours and retake the SAT and/or ACT to try to send in better scores. Taylor Domion ‘21 wrote, “I think that while colleges are going test-optional, people still would like to send in a good score. I know that I’m still trying to retake the SAT to try and get a better score, but due to the pandemic, the test dates keep getting cancelled. I know that some people haven’t taken the SAT yet and don’t have a score, so I’m grateful that I at least got to take the SAT. Due to the pandemic, traveling to go and visit colleges is also difficult.” 

When I asked students if they were planning on applying to any local colleges or universities, 63.6% of the 33 seniors who filled out my survey answered yes, 30.3% answered no, and 6.1% answered maybe. 28.1% of the seniors who answered yes or maybe to the previous question said they weren’t planning on applying to any local colleges or universities prior to the pandemic, while 59.4% said they were planning on doing so prior to the pandemic. I was curious to know why the pandemic had affected some people’s decision to apply to any local colleges or universities. Ali Shiraishi ‘21 commented, “Because the [number of] cases in other states is way [higher] than it is here in Hawaii and my parents don’t want to take the risk of sending me away when I might catch the virus. It’s more of a precautionary thing.”

I have also been contemplating whether or not attending college on the mainland versus staying here is worth it if the COVID-19 situation does not get better by next fall. It was interesting to see a mix of responses from other students. Some people said they don’t think paying the expensive tuition is worth it, but others said that the mainland experience and what a specific college has to offer outweigh the potential cons. Responding to this important issue, Logan Eaves ‘21 wrote, “The only benefit to attending a college on the mainland in the conditions we are currently in is being able to experience what it is like living on your own and being truly independent.” Laurel Nishina ‘21 responded with, “I think it depends because if that school offers a really great program for what you want to study, then it might be worth it, but I suppose that if you don’t, then you probably would think that it’s not worth it.” Cyrus Kelawala ‘21 commented, “I think in the long run, it’s still beneficial because in four years time, it’s probable that you would return to in-person instruction. Also, if that is the school you wanted to attend, at least when restrictions lift, you’ll have admittance to in-person learning at that school.”

Now that I had a lot of insight into what some seniors think about the new college admissions processes, I also wanted to hear what Mrs. Devine, Director of College Counseling, and Ms. Yamaguchi, my college counselor, thought about this topic. Regarding many colleges and universities becoming test-optional, Ms. Yamaguchi commented, “I appreciate the test-optional policy in that it gives the students the power to see their scores and reflect on whether they feel it is an accurate representation of their academic knowledge, THEN choose to or not to submit them as part of their application. I am a proponent of student choice and this gives more power to the applicant!” When talking with Mrs. Devine about what students should consider when applying to college, she commented, “We can only control what we can control at this point and thinking about the places where you would be happy and feel a sense of comfort are always going to be important as you’re considering colleges, so I would let that lead me as I’m thinking about colleges right now. That wouldn’t change for me. I would still think about what’s going to give me comfort, what’s going to make me happy, where am I going to be academically successful, where I feel like I’m going to have some challenge in there and it’s going to push me, but it’s not going to overwhelm me. I’m going to find friends and people around that I like, financially it’s a good fit, those things don’t change no matter if we have a pandemic or not.”

I hope that with all of this great and possibly new insight, you will all be able to take away something important and helpful; I know I sure did. Also, no matter who you are or how old you are, I believe it is important to gain as much knowledge and perspective on this topic as possible.