Seniors reflect on applying early to college in a pandemic

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By Ike Adedokun and Natalie Villacres, Features Copy Editor and Staff writer

With college application season well underway, a large number of seniors have already submitted their applications for the early decision and early action deadlines to various universities. Unlike regular decision, early decision applicants are legally obligated to attend the school in question, whereas early action applicants are not binded to the university in any way. Typically due by mid-November, early applications this year were widely affected by the ongoing pandemic. Consequently, seniors have readily reflected on their experiences so far and shared advice for those applying by the regular decision deadline. 

When asked why they chose to submit early applications, many seniors’ responses had one specific thing in common: de-stressing. 

“I decided to apply early because I wanted the relief of knowing I [had] a strong option for college earlier than if I were to apply regularly,” said Kevin Baijoo. “This way, I’ll have more time later to relax and focus on myself.”

Many other students also agreed that the main benefit of submitting early applications is the workload of dual enrollment classes, AP courses, extracurriculars, and college essays lifted off of their shoulders. Moreover, Krishna Baliga felt that applying early helped put him ahead of the pool of regular application students who have yet to submit their application. “Applying early to schools indicates that you really want to go there,” he said. 

However, with the added stress of a global pandemic and remote learning, students identified the wide range of difficulties they’ve faced in these past few months. Danielle Akilov, who applied to four early action schools, thought that communication with the school faculty was the biggest challenge. “Since we are not in the school building, we are unable to physically walk into the guidance office and have them show us how everything on the Common App and CUNY portal works,” she said. Kevin also commented on the numerous obstacles that are accompanied with remote learning, which included not being able to visit college campuses, and lack of the motivation to write essays and supplements.

Fortunately, seniors have readily shared their advice for their peers who are preparing their regular decision applications, and juniors who are beginning to think about college. Michelle Stern, who applied to two schools, reminded her peers that there is no shame in asking for help. “In my experience, I’ve found my [alumni] to be really helpful…friends or old classmates that got into (but even better attend) schools that I’m interested in and applying to,” she said. “Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to guidance… Ultimately, Townsend staff wants us all to get into our top colleges, so they’re definitely trying their best to help us out however they can.” 

Other seniors also urged students not to wait until the week before a deadline to get everything done. Harrisites are advised to leave plenty of time to draft, edit, and revise their essays, and make sure they are happy with the end products before they hit submit. Moreover, for juniors applying next year, Danielle emphasized the importance of early research and preparation. “You should start to research colleges now and create a document that highlights everything that you like about the schools you are interested in applying to,” she said. “Towards the end of junior year, take advantage of the time that your English teachers give you to write out your personal statement. ” Other resources, such as College Point and university summer programs, can also help juniors navigate through the unfamiliar processes to come.  

Ultimately, college decisions do not determine a student’s worth, nor do they define a student’s intelligence. “As hard as it can be to wrap our minds around it, a rejection does not necessarily mean that an applicant was inadequate or undeserving. Every single year, so many people get rejected when they really should’ve been admitted, but that totally doesn’t mean we should all just lose hope” Michelle said.”It’s good to keep a positive attitude, and try your best.”

Art by Andy Chen