The College Process in 2020-2021: The New Normal


Aidan Klimek

The college admissions process looks different this year. Incoming college freshman have had to deal with many changes, including participating in virtual campus tours instead of tours held in person.

Applying for colleges is overwhelming. The stress for seniors to maintain a respectable GPA, the college searching, the gathering of materials needed for their application are just parts of the rigorous college process that students must complete. The class of 2021, in particular, has had to face numerous additional obstacles due to the long lasting global pandemic. 

Current seniors had to abruptly move to online school during the last stretch of their junior year. After all of their hard work the past few years, and the constant drive to be the very best, this new change affected many student’s attitudes, motivation, and work ethic that they had towards their online school work. 

In fact, numerous 2021 seniors said that “We didn’t have the motivation to do any schoolwork because we weren’t in a school setting and it felt almost like summer vacation came a few months early.” Whether students were in a school setting or not, they still needed to prepare themselves for their future.

Getting accepted into college is the beginning of a new chapter. This year, the chapter is being rewritten much differently. The anticipated college visits and the nerve-wracking application process has morphed. Graduating students are not permitted to visit campuses in person, yet colleges campuses with higher education still want students to have a virtual experience.

The college campus visits are by far the most favored part of the college experience for students, according to students apart of the previous graduating classes. Every graduating class before 2020 had the opportunity to find a campus that feels like home. In fact, many past graduates say “you will just feel it.” 

These graduates have explained that every aspect of the campus will feel like you’re meant to be there. The smells, the sounds, the views, the people, and just the overall atmosphere will feel like the perfect fit. 

Colleges, such as Duquesne University, have been trying their best to give a true feel by offering virtual college visits to high school seniors. Visits sometimes held via zoom are hosted by an admissions counselor who gives intel on the campus life and what the school has to offer. A potential student is able to view a tab, so that they can join a virtual campus tour.

When joining a virtual college visit, viewers will be sent to a main page that displays the front of the campus. From there, you will be able to click on the arrows displayed on the screen pointing in multiple different directions. Depending on which arrow you choose, you will then be directed to that part of the campus. When you get to a building that is displayed on the screen, you can click on the building and tour the inside. Most other colleges are partaking in this method as well and while this has been helpful, it just isn’t the same according to one student in particular at GLSHS. 

Lily Kesler has been doing all that she can in order to stay on top of everything that the new and unfamiliar college process requires. Although Lily has yet to attend an online visit, she has recently visited Robert Morris University, in a drive-through event. Lily states, “The administration had us drive through the campus and stop at tables set up along the way to talk to students and counselors in order to learn more about the campus.”  While she believes that this was very helpful, Lily wasn’t able to go inside any of the buildings, which left her wondering what they looked like and if they made her feel at home.

The application process has been re-evaluated and modified to fit the changes that not only students, but their schools have had to undergo through the past few months. The new test-optional modification that most colleges are adapting due to the allows students to apply to colleges without submitting their SAT or ACT scores. In fact, The Wall Street Journal, “College Rankings” article states that “More than 60% of four-year schools in the U.S. don’t require test scores.” 

Students who have a high GPA and are well-educated may have trouble taking tests, especially in the intermittent classes due to the expectations that they hold for these advanced students. Because test scores are now optional, students won’t have to rely on a test score to show their true worth and potential.

“The applications were really easy to fill out. The only major change is the new test optional modification,” Keslar said. “I really liked that colleges are taking into consideration the fact that many students may not have been able to take their SATs or ACTs due to test center closures. Not only were tests being cancelled, but many did not feel comfortable leaving their homes during quarantine.” 

Thus, while college is going to look different indefinitely for the class of 2021, it is clear that these colleges and universities are trying their best to accommodate their incoming freshman class, so that these students can get a taste of college life on campus.