COVID-19’s Impact on the class of 2021

COVID-19 has impacted virtually every sector of our economy and world. College admissions is facing challenges beyond anything in its history. The role of higher education will likely change significantly in the pandemic’s aftermath.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve met with colleagues, college admissions directors, and students. The class of 2021 will be impacted in unprecedented ways during the upcoming admissions cycle. I heard one admissions officer say that this will be the most nontraditional class in their school’s history. As a counselor, this is great news. The college admissions process has been broken (in my opinion) for awhile. Last year’s college scandal showed the extremes of what people were willing to go to for a ticket into a prestigious school.

The uncertainty around COVID-19 as it relates to college admissions has left students faced with so many challenges; from distance learning, to extracurriculars going away overnight, to SATs being cancelled, it’s hard to have answers. The silver lining of all of this is that students are in the driver seat. Traditionally, throughout the college admissions process the constant question is what can you offer our school? What sets you apart? How can you show our school that you are the kind of student we want here? Have you visited us, emailed us, checked our facebook page? Did you send a note to the person who visited your school? This year, that all has been thrown out the window. It’s time for students to ask schools what they want. What kinds of majors do you offer me that will offer opportunities later? How do I know that if I go to your school I will have a meaningful experience? What kinds of connections will I make at your school that will help me in the future? Can I talk to someone in the department The old formula for college admissions is gone. Grades, standardized tests, spring extracurriculars, summer experiences–they are all gone for this class. Now is the time to ask schools what do I want, not what does the college want?

The one part of the college application that will be even more important this year is the college essay. I’ve already heard rumblings from many schools that they might be adding a COVID-19 question to their essay prompts. Maybe something like, “how were you impacted by COVID-19?” This leads me to my next piece of advice to juniors, which is please make the most of this time. I know COVID-19 has impacted many students physically and/or emotionally and many students may just be in survival mode. But for those students who are lucky enough to be healthy and home – make sure you are actively participating in your distance learning. Maybe your grades don’t matter, but your comprehension does. In addition, take this time to learn something new, or pursue an interest. Learn a computer language (Python anyone?), or find a topic and listen to podcasts, or Tedtalks. Is your sport cancelled for spring? What are you doing at home to be prepared to compete again? I’m not shy about my love of planners and journals; now is the time to write. Even if it’s doodles or jotting, those are all great potential jumping off points for college essays. As always, I’m here to help, reach out if you have questions.

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