College applications during COVID

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By Izegbuwa Adun and Juney Liu, News Copy Editor and Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the college admissions process for this year’s application cycle. Nevertheless, many modifications have been made to prepare seniors for the college application process, despite being remote. 

THHS guidance counselors have been meeting with the senior class since the spring semester of their junior year. “In February 2020, the guidance counselors conducted guidance meetings regarding college applications in the U.S. History classes,” said guidance counselor Jeremy Wang. “At the meeting, we included general information as well as many details, such as Naviance v. Common App, teacher recommendation v. counselor recommendation, how to request a teacher for a recommendation, etc.” 

After the school was closed in March, guidance counselors still met with their students virtually, discussing “the individual student for a counselor letter of recommendation, responsible parties in a student’s college application process, how many colleges should each student apply, etc,” Mr. Wang continued.

Fast forward to the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the guidance department has been holding senior meetings almost every Friday afternoon to provide students with information to guide them in completing their college applications. In addition, guidance counselors have also been meeting with seniors individually to prepare each student in the application process and help them apply to the colleges of their choice or their “fit” colleges. Senior Kanny Ho Fang stated, “I am deathly afraid that I might be making the wrong choices for college since I was not able to go on college tours. Virtual tours and seminars have been helpful but they aren’t the same as real tours.” Most of the seniors were able to visit a few colleges, in person, on previous college trips, but seniors missed the opportunity to visit colleges over the summer. Therefore, with the cancelation of the college tours, seniors turned to YouTube videos and virtual tours to get some idea of the colleges they want to attend. 

“We [have been] encouraging students to use the virtual tour options on college websites, as well as attending information sessions that the colleges are hosting… [as] these are the closest ways to identifying whether a college is a good fit,” guidance counselor Sara Skoda said. 

Ms. Skoda added, “Prior to major deadlines, [guidance counselors] have held virtual drop-in hours for students to ask a quick question to their counselor. This…can go a long way to a student who is anxious about the process.” 

Although in-person interactions with guidance counselors are preferred, seniors expressed their gratitude to the guidance department for helping them the best they can throughout this stressful application process. “Mr. Wang has helped me numerous times with individual meetings, school profile, recommendation letters, emails, and has answered many questions for me,” senior Xu Dong said. Kanny expressed similar sentiments, “My guidance counselor has been really good about answering emails and helping me fill out forms, even when I haven’t been the easiest to help. I certainly appreciate all the help she’s given me, and I’ve been grateful for her advice.”

 The pandemic has also made standardized testing more difficult, as many testing centers have closed due to safety concerns. 

To compensate, many colleges have implemented a test-optional approach for this admissions season, with few exceptions. In previous years, SATs and ACTs played a major role in colleges’ holistic approach to admissions. However, this year students are not required to submit any test scores to most of their colleges. “Admissions offices at colleges will look at students’ transcripts, essays, and extracurricular activities, as the basis to their decisions,” said Ms. Skoda.

This change received positive reactions from THHS seniors. “The switch to a test optional admissions … that most colleges adopted alleviated lots of the stress,” said senior Hans Li. Senior Nancy Jiang agreed, “I think there are more students applying early as the SAT score is no longer a worry to them.” 

Many seniors also expressed their concerns about the new test-optional policy. Senior Vivian Chen commented, “I feel like since I wasn’t able to take some of the tests, my application wouldn’t be as strong as it could’ve been.” Senior Tracy Yip shared similar concerns, adding that “the admission to the colleges [might] be harder this year since many people are not going to submit their SAT scores. It means that the college admission officers would be more strict and critical when looking at our applications.” 

Nevertheless, Mr. Wang said, “We [the guidance department] are working hard to ensure a successful regular decision application period.”