By Julia Si
Soon, most of you will embark on the crazy college admissions process during one of the most confusing times in history. It’s never too early to start and prepare for it. Think to yourself: How are YOU going to stand out in your application? What makes you different from the applicant before you? We know these are very stressful times, so we have tried to break the process down to its basics in this letter to you.
Standardized testing requirements are changing due to the pandemic as well as the reevaluation of educational standards. For many schools, they are changing permanently. When a school has gone test optional, it means test scores are not necessary to apply, but if you decide to take an ACT or SAT and score well, definitely submit your score. It can only help your application, not hurt you. Colleges going test optional can greatly benefit an applicant with a strong academic record that may have not performed well on standardized tests. It could also mean that other parts of the application are highlighted more, such as extracurricular activities, course load, and essays. However, without the testing requirement, the number of applications for colleges will likely increase drastically. For instance, UCLA’s freshman applicants increased by 28% this past year. Despite this statistic, do not let that stop you from applying anywhere. Since the college admissions process is holistic, not every aspect of your application has to be perfect. Testing is just a small portion of a multifaceted application.
“Never feel pressured to do everything on your own; having people around you to support you throughout the process can ease your understandable nerves...”
COVID-19 definitely had an impact on the college admissions process for the Class of 2021. One big change was the shift towards virtual information sessions. Prospective colleges hold many informational meetings discussing their schools and explaining their programs, and attending these sessions can be extremely helpful to decide where to apply. Applications can have a hefty price tag: some schools charge fees up to $90 just to apply to their school. The information sessions can help you narrow down your list of colleges and save money. Attending these sessions also show “demonstrated interest” and can prompt certain colleges to send you application fee waivers as well.
We heavily recommend campus tours, too. If you are able to go and visit a college in person, take that opportunity. Location can be a big factor in your decision, so being physically at the college or university can give you a better feel of the vibe and environment of the school. If a real tour is not available to you, almost every college has a 3D online tour that can show you around a school. It is not the most practical option, but it is definitely convenient and better than nothing.
Artwork by Sabeena Ramdarie
It can be stressful applying to dozens of different schools, especially during the pandemic, but don't be afraid to reach out to current college students and admissions counselors to find what school is the best fit for you.
Despite the pandemic impacting college admissions, some things will never change. The Common Application, a website that is used by hundreds of universities and colleges, continues to be the most efficient platform to apply to colleges. It typically opens in late summer, so try to fill out the basic questions early to save a lot of time before senior year starts. Also, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA, opens every year on October 1. It requires your family’s financial information, which helps colleges decide how much financial aid to offer for your college education. Filling out the FAFSA is a lengthy and time-consuming process, but it could possibly save your family a lot of money. Truthfully, college is expensive, so any money helps. Students should take advantage of any scholarship opportunities that are offered by outside organizations, like the Coca-Cola company. It can be as simple as filling out a form, or it can involve writing another supplemental essay. Take the time to research different scholarships, since some have certain requirements based on location, race, or annual income.
Lastly, the college admissions process is a stressful time, but there are resources available to help you along if you are ever lost. The NHP guidance counselors can aid you if you are unsure or confused about the college process, and the internet also provides a great wealth of information. You are likely to find all the information you need somewhere on the college’s website or social media. In addition, past NHP Memorial graduates can give you advice about their experiences as current students in college. Take the time to research the universities you are interested in, but keep an open mind to other possibilities as well.
In addition, it is important to stay up to date on deadlines and due dates. Procrastinating will only bring stress, so start writing essays early on, and write more than one draft. Have a friend or teacher proofread it and give feedback and know that it is normal to ask for help. Never feel pressured to do everything on your own; having people around you to support you throughout the process can ease your understandable nerves.
At the end of the day, apply to schools that you believe will suit you best inside and outside the classroom. College is more than just school. It will be your future home for the next chapter of your life. On the same note, do not overthink and stress yourself out over the applications and decisions. Everything happens in your life for a reason, and in the end, you will end up in the college you are meant to be at.
The Chariot Staff