How COVID has altered getting into, attending college

The pandemic has forced universities to reassess admissions and has caused students to consider whether or not it’s worth it to be on campus


Javier Vela

Juniors and seniors crammed into the library for a college fair on campus on Sept. 4, 2019. This is just one of the many college-application rites that have been fundamentally altered by the pandemic. Face-to-face counseling from admissions officers and even school counselors has become a thing of the past in 2020. Photo by Javier Vela.

Senior Kyle Davis stands next to Snowballa, a snow one truck off of Burnet Road, his place of work. Luckily, he is still able to work by following COVID-19 friendly procedures and save money for college.

College is where you find yourself. You explore, make lifelong friendships, and learn valuable self-independence that you will use for the rest of your life. Due to COVID-19, many changes have occurred to ensure the safety of all of its attendees. It is disheartening to go into college with the weight of this pandemic on your back, but colleges are understanding of the life-changing situations happening to everyone. As of recently, lots of colleges have made the SATs an optional part of the application process. This might help some students, but most have seen this as a negative. SAT scores can help improve student applications and make it stand out against others.

“COVID ruined my SATs,” senior Kyle Davis said. “I did badly on the one taken at McCallum and so I set up another one for August which got canceled because of the corona. All of my colleges thankfully are making SAT optional, it just sucks because I wanted that on my application.”

Some students wonder whether it is worth it to attend the physical university just to take online classes. Part of the college experience is sitting in class, meeting professors, having that in-person connection. The curriculum will be different from this new distance learning hurdle but whether it will be as enriching as before, that is up for debate.

On one hand, students think it will be the same because the professors are trying their hardest to accommodate everyone’s needs and get the information across as effectively as possible. Other students believe it will not be as beneficial when it comes to online learning. Certain subjects and majors, such as medical or musical, might struggle more with the lack of a physical learning environment. Shieh goes on to say,

Megan Shieh, Senior and Varsity softball player, wears her UT jersey because she hopes to attend UT, major in business, and hopefully become a CPA.

“I do not think I will have the same college education because virtual learning does not provide as much hands-on learning and it makes labs more difficult to do,” said Megan Shieh, a senior and varsity softball player. “I do believe that having to learn virtually will teach people how to learn in new settings and adapt to different circumstances which will help with future careers. Not everything goes as planned and learning how to adjust is an important life skill.”

Although there have been a lot of negatives with the SATs, there have been some positives. Some kids stress the SATs and don’t do well which can negatively affect their applications. Fees that are normally required to take the SATs are no longer a problem for students with financial issues, which helps level the playing field.

College essays are always a huge part of the application process. It allows the admissions board to get a feel for the student and get an insight into their lives and experiences. Living through a pandemic like this shows strength and growth in character. When it comes to essays this year, a prompt has been added talking about how COVID has affected student’s lives. This seems like this could be a personal question for some, but gives the board insight into the challenges students have faced this year. Most colleges are also only requiring the answering of one prompt when in previous years two have been required.

“COVID ruined my SATs. … All of my colleges thankfully are making SAT optional, it just sucks because I wanted that on my application.”

— senior Kyle Davis

Some difficulties that this year’s seniors are having to deal with is the lack of physical connection. No one can tour the campus which helps greatly in the choosing of what college is right for each individual student. It allows you to get a solid foundation for the layout, history, and overall atmosphere of the campus. Davis mentions how previous students were supplied with a multitude of resources when applying for college but this year, none of that was available.

“All of the previous seniors were able to have a physical interaction with counselors and teachers about applying to college,” he said. “This year we have to do it all by ourselves.”

Another change that might be occurring this year is how colleges view financial aid. Typically, it is whoever is the most in need of if. Due to the economic situations caused by COVID-19, it might be harder to receive financial aid as many people are in unstable financial situations with the loss of many jobs. Shieh commented saying people who have been affected financially by the virus, might have a better opportunity to receive financial aid.

“They also include a question relating to the financial status given the coronavirus and if anyone in your family lost their job,” she said. “I understand why they are asking, but for people who thankfully had job stability, I feel like those people are at a disadvantage for financial aid. The financial aid will most likely go to those with a lower income and/or people who were negatively affected by the virus financially.”