Virtual College Admissions: More Stressful Than It Sounds.


Ayiana Scott, Contributor

On Friday, March 13, 2020 the computers of students nationwide lit up with an email notification from a notoriously disliked company. It was this day that the College Board, which is responsible for administering the SAT exams, had announced that the March 14th test, the first one of the year, had been cancelled.

Every year students across the country are found ditching their social lives in order to best prepare themselves for the SAT’s. So this year, they were shocked to discover that there would in fact be no test for that date. Because of CDC regulations against large gatherings, the test had to be canceled.

 Since then, as coronavirus cases continued to grow, more and more SAT test centers have been closed, pushing many universities in America to make the submissions of standardized testing optional for the first time in nearly 94 years. 

Although the cancellation of the test has been a huge relief for many students, for San Rafael high school student Alyssa Nevotti, the cancellation of the test has not yet taken away all of the stress of the 2021 college application process. 

“I was always really adamant that I wanted to go to college but every time I thought about it I got really nervous and I started to cry every single time,” she said in an interview. “Right now school is really difficult so you know, and you know, I’m trying my best.”

For high school seniors around the world, the college admissions process has always been stressful. However this year, with everything being unknown and new virtual systems being developed, high school seniors are learning how to cope with the stress of school and college applications in a way that has never been done before.

The coronavirus began to take a heavy toll on the 2020 college application when in mid-March the CDC advised against large group gatherings in order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19. This meant the ending of classes, standardized testing of both college admissions exams and AP tests (which were done virtually), college tours and much more. 

In previous years, students would have a few main objectives in order to successfully move forward into college. They needed to keep strong grades, do well on standardized tests, and understand the college applications so they could successfully submit their work. For years, an applicant’s GPA and test scores were a large part of what an administrator would use in order to determine their acceptance. However this year, everything is different. 

According to a New York Times Article, college administrators will be focusing more of their efforts on students’ essays rather than their test scores. In some ways this increases the demand for students because now they must really spend a majority of their time perfecting essays, and for most students, resources for help are hard to find. 

Luckily, schools like San Rafael high school have programs that are specifically designed for helping students get the college help they need. Ms. Cifuentes, who works in the San Rafael High School’s College and Career Center, works with students to introduce them to all the different opportunities and resources they have access to. 

The CCC has been something that is incredibly useful to SR seniors. They have a bright and welcoming classroom that intrigues students to go inside and get help whenever they walk by. This year however, with school being held at home this year, Ms. Cifuentes and the CCC struggle to get in contact with students. 

“I try my best to communicate through the counselors’ corners, emails and through Instagram but I still feel that it is not enough,” she says. 

The resources provided by the CCC range anywhere from application help, to internships, jobs, scholarships and much more. Emails including all this information are regularly being sent to students, however many do not check them. For Ms. Cifuentes, this leads to her concern that no one will get the details they need and will miss such great opportunities.

Several seniors at SR have voiced that they do in fact miss being able to just walk into the CCC. With so many emails being sent out, it all just becomes “too much” for students, causing some of  the information to get lost in translation.

When asked what is the most difficult and stressful thing about college applications this year, SRHS senior Jason Cortez said, “It’s difficult having things virtual and it’s just not the same. I feel like there’s this barrier between us and everything else.”

On top of this, educators and students have to deal with the different privileges and experiences they have when it comes to understanding college applications.

SRHS Senior Katie Dalpino feels lucky enough to have been able to jump start her college applications because her older brother had already gone through this process. In the beginning, she had not even the slightest idea about what the Common App was but fortunately for her, her brother and mom were able to help her out tremendously. There are many students like her who have had great access to both in person and virtual tours which she claims to have been very helpful in relieving her stress. 

However, Katie’s experience has not been entirely stress-free. In fact she still feels a bit of anxiety thinking about all she must do and just how difficult virtual help has been so far. When speaking on how things have changed, she said, “You used to just be able to walk into the CCC and now we have confusing emails. Overall it is just harder to get help.”

However, other students like Jason must undergo a slightly different experience. “Being first-generation is my main inspiration because I want to be the first in my family to go to college,” said Jason. He sometimes feels nervous especially because none of his parents have ever done this before, and he’s largely on his own. Jason is not an anomaly at SR as many of the students applying to college are first generation and also must endure similar difficulties. 

And although things may seem difficult when it comes to college apps this year, Jason is not too discouraged because he realizes that there are many resources for first generation students like him and advised other seniors going through similar experiences to look into them. 

With everything that has been going on around the world this past year, the college application process and virtual instruction has become something that just a few months ago nobody could have expected. 

Students are working endlessly to not only keep up with things in school but to also make large leaps towards their future. And with nobody, not even teachers, parents or counselors knowing exactly what to do, the entire experience does seem daunting.  

“I still get a little bit anxious because things are coming up fast,” said Alyssa. “But my best piece of advice would be that while it is important to work and get your applications done, you should never forget to just breath, because it will all work out somehow.”