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COVID High School

College Applications during Coronavirus

Anew season is coming. Halloweenpumpkinsare disappearing, Thanksgiving leftovers are being finished up, sweaters (especially those of the ugly variety) are being broken out as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” will begin to blast through everything that can make noise. As celebration begins for the ending of this train wreck of a year, so does celebration for a break from school. Everyone is burnt out. Most students and teachers never prepared to have an education that was purely online and although everyone has done the best they could, it’s still been a mental drain. A pause is needed and well deserved. However, the holiday season also beckons a different season for a small sect of the population: college applications. As kids submit themselves to spending even more time with their families (yay), many seniors face the excitement and uncertainty that comes with the college process. Application deadlines are now fast approaching if they haven’t already passed. The University of California application was due on Nov. 30. The California State University application is due on Dec. 4. Many private colleges have applications due in late December or even early January. If a student is applying Early Decision (meaning there is a binding commitment to the school if committed) or Early Action (a nonbinding route that allows the student to learn if they were admitted earlier), they likely had to submit their applications by mid-November. If they are applying for a specific program or major, they likely have had to submit their applications early, as well as supplemental materials depending on the area of interest. If you’re overwhelmed reading that, I understand. It translates to a stressful jumble of a lot of everything. But beyond the stress of the different applications, there’s also an unexpected dilemma that comes with the staggered dates. A student might expect to relate to their friends concerning how perplexing and pressuring the process is, but that’s not necessarily the case. While one person might be beginning their essays, another could have already submitted all of theirs. Some of my friends have already gotten acceptances (thanks to rolling admissions) whereas others have yet to submit an application anywhere. Every person’s experience is proving to be uniquely their own, which can make it that much more nerve wracking. There’s no guide for if you’re behind or ahead or not even in the same field as anybody else, leaving you to feel you’re in a perpetual mix of it all.

The pandemic forcing everything online is also causing problems during the application process. Although there are resources, teachers or counselors, it’s hard to reach out when you don’t know what to ask for. How do you set up a meeting when you have no purpose aside from general confusion? Furthermore, because applications, college, and planning out your entire future is an ongoing pressure, it’s hard to reach out to peers you might have at school and vent about the frustration the process creates. The stress becomes part of your routine, so what more is there to say about it?

Of course, there’s also the burden of deciding your future (or at least your future for the next four years). Yet again, everyone is in different stages. Seniors seem to either have their entire careers mapped out or be “undecided” in ways beyond their intended major of study. There’s a tug between some people expecting a plan for the rest of our lives and others understanding seniors are 17- and 18 year-olds trying to gain footing in independence for the first time, and we’re caught in the middle.

As seniors look forward, it’s impossible to not look back. Our freshman year welcomed us with fires and our senior year is sending us off with even more fires as well as a pandemic. I doubt anybody predicted our time in high school would make uncertainty become such a familiar but unwanted companion. With such a flimsy baseline, it’s hard to imagine what even the next year will look like, let alone the next four. It only raises questions: Will college be online? Will it be in person? What comes with next fall?

As we enter a holiday season like none other in our lifetime, many seniors fill out applications for different colleges, majors, and futures. Pressures are at every turn and the price for messing up seems to be too steep a price to pay. Stress is running high and tears are falling low, but like everyone, we’re doing our best to keep our hopes that next year will bring better things (along with an acceptance letter or two).

Mackenzie Cramer is a Kenwood resident and a senior at Maria Carrillo High School.

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