Pandemic creates additional challenges in preparing for college

This story was originally published in the sixth edition of The Lion’s Tale (May 5, 2021).

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, everything has changed for students. School was cancelled, classes became virtual, and nothing has been the same since.

While adjusting to the pandemic, the class of 2022 has been preparing for college applications as well. Junior year is the most important year of high school, and completing it during the pandemic has not been easy.

When the time came to choose classes before this school year, like many others, my family and I decided that online would be the safest option. However, as my senior year approaches, I’ve been feeling more unprepared than ever.

Had the school year been normal, I would have spent free time preparing for the SAT or ACT, but not being in school each day, it’s been hard to remember to spend time practicing, or reviewing concepts. I haven’t had a traditional English class where a teacher might remind us of the upcoming test dates. Instead, for both tests I just got an email one week prior to each.

Not to mention, even though I go in-person for electives now, I don’t have classes before 10, so taking a big exam like the SAT at 7 a.m. was quite difficult. I felt like I had a bit of a disadvantage not being used to the normal early morning time. I was in a rush to leave the house and had trouble staying awake during the test.

When it comes to college applications, I feel so lost and don’t know where to start. I don’t feel ready to even begin thinking about going to college in a year, since it felt like high school was just getting started pre-Covid.

The pandemic has already had a significant impact on college enrollment. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment at higher education institutions is down 4.5 percent as compared to last spring.

Half of the colleges I’m interested in aren’t doing in-person tours due to COVID, and there are many uncertainties when it comes to applications. Will the pandemic be over in time for my freshman year and will classes be in-person? Questions around COVID certainly will impact where I decide to apply come fall, along with worries about wasting money just to be in college online classes for the year.