Applying to College in 2020


Credit: Marissa Dalton

The class of 2021 is facing unprecedented circumstances in the college process due to the pandemic.

Many seniors at Williston have already submitted their first round of college applications due on November 1.

A significant obstacle for many has been standardized testing. According to Susan Adams, a writer at Forbes, “the College Board canceled SAT dates for more than 1 million students this spring after the pandemic forced schools across the country to close.” The same has happened to test facilities all over the world.

Although Williston has offered many standardized tests since August, some students learning remotely do not have convenient access to the tests. Anfisa Bogdanenko, a Williston senior studying remotely in Vladivostok, Russia, is one of many who are facing this problem.

“I flew to Moscow to take the SAT both in March and November,” she said, which took eight and a half hours per flight. “I tried to attend more tests, but there were test center closures and rescheduling. At one point, I was ready to fly to Istanbul, Turkey, to take the test, but I had to cancel the flight because they restricted entry conditions just a week before the test.”

Istanbul is a 16-hour flight from where Anfisa lives.

Many universities, including all the Ivy League schools, have gone “test-optional” because of these difficulties, no longer requiring standardizing testing to apply. Abby Schulkind, a Willison senior, took advantage of this change in policy.

“When I took the SAT in March, I was so so so stressed out because schools weren’t test-optional then,” she said. “When I took it in August, I was less stressed, and I did better. Seeing the SAT as an option instead of a deciding factor is better because I don’t think the SAT measures my ability as a student.”

In addition to test-optional, some colleges have gone “test-blind,” meaning they don’t consider test scores, even if students want to submit them.

On top of canceling standardized tests, the pandemic has also prevented students from taking on-campus tours. Most colleges have started conducting virtual tours instead.

Abby sees both positive and negative effects of the replacement of on-campus tours with virtual tours.

“When going on virtual tours, you can be more analytical than emotional when choosing,” she said. “There’ve been psychological studies where the weather greatly affects how much you like the college when you tour it. But it’s hard because a lot of the schools that I like, I haven’t even been to, and I haven’t been to the states that they’re in, so I really don’t have a good feel.”

Sara Johnson, a Williston senior, dislikes how dull virtual tours are.

“I have a really short attention span, and I hate sitting in front of my computer,” she said. “I just have a hard time figuring out if the campus is what I could see myself walking around every day.”

Anna Richardson, a Williston senior, prefers in-person tours over virtual tours.

“The virtual tours were very uninteresting and boring because it’s hard to pay attention to, and you’re not getting a feel for the space,” she said. “I think in-person tours are a lot different because they can personalize it to your interests, and you get to go inside the buildings and talk with students. You get a huge insight into the school because you see it through the same lens you’d be looking through if you went there.”

Charlie Lonergan, a college counselor at Williston, believes that the pandemic will make long-term changes to the college process.

“I expect that some colleges will continue with test-optional practices,” he said. “I also think schools will continue to do a good/better job of offering virtual tours, information sessions, interviews, etc. These didn’t exist in a great capacity prior to Covid, but I can see schools keeping these resources in place once in-person activity can resume.”

He also gave advice to students during this stressful time.

“Be present,” he said. “Make a decision that is best for you right now. Pursue things that are important or interesting to you right now because you want to, not because you feel you need to. Doing so will end up working for you in the future.”