College and Corona

Yes, even the campus tours are online.


Courtesy photo

Photographed is Sammie Marinello in front of the Bucknell University campus

Walking on the glistening grass on the campus of Bucknell University, Sammie Marinello knew it was to be her dream school.

The inability to travel, rescheduling of standardized testing, and lack of in-person contact with students and counselors has made applying to and looking for the right fit for college tricky for students starting the process during COVID-19. Virtual tours have been put in place as an alternative to traveling to look at school, and many schools have become test-optional for exams like the SAT.

“I very much do not like virtual tours, they’re set up to make the schools look good instead of realistic,” said Sammie Marinello, a current senior at Triton High School.

Some students have said that they are not having a difficult time with the process, but that it’s just not what they had expected. Triton High School guidance counselor, Karen Christian, stated “the biggest challenge for me is the access to the students” but also referenced the fact that the process is not necessarily different than it would be without a pandemic.

The inability to meet one on one, guidance counselors and students has made the application process more independent for students, but due to COVID-19 and the use of the Common Application program used by more than 800 colleges, many students like Scibetta and Marinello are applying to several schools.

Due to COVID-19, the amount of traveling to colleges has been limited. Students who want to look at schools that are not doing tours and not in one’s reasonable driving distance, have had to adjust to the virtual tours provided by some colleges. 

“People always talk about how when they go to visit a school, it feels like home, but when it’s virtual it just looks like a whole bunch of buildings,” said Kyle Scibetta, a current senior at Triton High School.

Many schools have become test-optional, meaning taking the standardized testing isn’t necessary to submit an application. This is a benefit for students like Scibetta, who has not and does not plan to take the SAT or ACT. However, students such as Marinello who needed to take the testing, had the testing rescheduled several times. There are certain waivers to sign, spaced seating meaning smaller groups, and mask protocols to follow. 

As more schools are becoming test-optional, the students’ college essays are more significant. “Their essays might have a little bit more weight as far as their acceptance. Colleges need to make sure that when they accept a student, they need to make sure they’re going to be a good fit for campus and the way to find that out is through their personal essay,” said Christian. 

Students’ grades, school and community involvement, and essays are a large factor that admissions officers plan on looking at. Many state that they are expecting many COVID-19 themed essays, but according to NPR’s How The Coronavirus Has Upended College Admissions it is not the topic to choose because everyone was affected by the COVID lockdown, and admissions officers are not going to want to relive it while going through applications. However, through Common App students can share briefly how COVID-19 has affected them and their lives. 

Due to COVID-19 and other personal reasons, some groups of students are taking a gap-year or not going to college at all. A gap year is beneficial to some, others it is not. According to the Gap Year Association, no two gap years are the same. It can be beneficial for helping students get a better grasp on what they want to study, or using the time to get an internship and experience what the workforce is like. Up to 90% of students enroll in a 4-year institution after their gap year, and from a 2015 survey has led to better job satisfaction.  

The virus has affected those involved in the college application process in similar and different ways. Regardless, the process may have not changed to some, but the factors of the application are weighted differently.