Seniors face challenges navigating college visits amidst COVID-19

Senior Tyler Owens-Terwilliger (right) and his mother (left) stand in front of Otterbein University’s stadium. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Owens-Terwilliger)

Senior Arianna Martin prepared for her college tour of The New School in New York, her dream school, by grabbing her computer, sitting on her bed, and clicking the play button of the virtual tour video. 

Last March, she was excited to go on a spring break trip to New York City, Boston, and Providence to visit prospective colleges. However, she was quickly let down when the pandemic forced her to cancel her plans. Now, she’s only able to view the colleges she may attend through her computer.

Regardless of the disappointment, Martin said she likes how schools are conducting the online tours.

“Some schools offer virtual tours via Zoom where they click through each building and discuss what you can do in there,” Martin said. “Another way schools have been doing virtual visits is through websites, which allow you to click on arrows and you get to choose where you are going. I actually really like them.” 

Even though Martin was upset about not being able to visit her dream school, she said she still feels she is getting a good understanding of what the college is like.

“You can definitely tell that schools are trying their best to make the touring process as enjoyable as possible and have students get the full effect,” she said. 

Martin said she is hoping to major in fashion design and is most interested in attending TNS because of its great location and amazing facilities.

“The hustle, drama, elegance, and creativity of the city are all reasons why I love The New School,” she said. “New York City is also one of the fashion capitals of the world, so I know that I would always be inspired at The New School, and I would also have access to New York Fashion Week where I would be exposed to many famous designers, a dream of mine.”

One positive that comes with applying to college during COVID, Martin added, is the reduced requirements, making it easier to be accepted.

“Some of my schools have lowered the number of pieces required in the portfolio,” she said. “TNS specifically used to require 15 to 20 pieces, but now they are only requiring eight to 12 pieces.”

Senior Grace Satterwhite also enjoys the lowered requirements of applications, especially when it comes to standardized testing.

“Almost all of the schools I am applying to are test score optional, meaning ACT and SAT are not required, which is nice and lessens the pressure of applying,” Satterwhite explained.

However, Satterwhite added that she had problems with getting a feel for colleges far away from home.

“I am applying to mostly out of state schools, so Covid makes it a little trickier to decide where I want to go since I can’t visit in person,” she said. “I’m worried about picking a school and not liking it.”

Senior Tyler Owens-Terwilliger said he had an easier time visiting schools closer to home rather than far away. He added that he is committed to play lacrosse at Otterbein University in Westerville.

“Lacrosse was the main reason that I wanted to go to Otterbein, as they have a great program headed by great coaches,” he explained. “I also liked the smaller aspect of the school and that it wasn’t too close to home.” 

Owens-Terwilliger said he did online visits of the college through Zoom in the spring and was able to visit in person over the summer.

“Seeing the college over Zoom was very impersonal, and it was harder to see what the college was like,” he explained. “However, the virtual tour was more convenient and safer at the time than going in person.”

Owens-Terwilliger also had specific protocols he had to follow on the tour meant to keep him safe.

“I had to wear a mask the whole visit,” he said. “The visits were also limited to six students, with two parents per person.”

Senior Henry Lewis, who hopes to major in social work and minor in business, also had the chance to go on an in-person tour of a college campus he is interested in, High Point University in North Carolina. 

“High Point has a wonderful business program, modernized facilities, and a beautiful location,” he said. 

Like Owens-Terwilliger, Lewis said that he was instructed to wear a mask and social distance while on the tour.

Lewis added that looking at schools has been a fun process regardless of COVID and is excited to plan for his future. 

“COVID created high levels of stress for millions of people, so schools have proven to be more understanding and relaxed through this process of applying,” he said.

College Counselor Stephanie Krosnosky said she sees seniors having a hard time with the application process more than ever this year.

Students are struggling with workload management in completing applications as they navigate remote and hybrid instruction,” she said. “However, the Class of 2021 are adaptive, resilient, and so amazing in their ability to manage the challenges of an unknown future.”

Krosnosky is hopeful that seniors are able to manage applications in this tough situation.

“For the past seven months, our seniors have been forced to live in the moment,” she said. “We can’t plan too far down the road right now, and the seniors set an incredible example of this mindset.”