This year may be unusual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped senior Susannah Ness and many others from preparing for college.
“I spent my summer gathering research and narrowing down my (college) list,” 17-year-old Ness said. “(I’ve been) figuring out how the Common Application works and doing essay writing workshops to get ready for the application.”
This year, the college application process is very different from previous years. COVID-19 has caused high schools across the country to move to distance learning, and this has caused many students to worry that they will fall behind. Additionally, these circumstances have intensified the difficulty of college applications and changed student priorities.
“I think just not having that time at school, since it’s virtual, it’s being a little more neglected,” Ness said about the college application process. “That’s been a little tricky.”
A huge change this year is that the California State University schools have gone test-optional for this admissions cycle. This means that while students are allowed to submit standardized test scores, they will not be penalized for not doing so. The University of California schools have gone even further and are test-blind for this year, meaning they won’t accept standardized tests at all.
“Right now we’re in a pandemic and students, especially seniors, have so much stress already going on,” DPMHS counselor Martina Torres said. “I think it’s appreciated by many current seniors that they are not requiring those exams. I think it gives (seniors) a little bit more ability to show off themselves in other ways.”
Financial aid is also a major part of the college application process. Most financial aid is through the FAFSA, a form that can be filled out by seniors starting on Oct. 1.
“The key thing students and parents need to understand is that what (the FAFSA) generates is an amount that the family should be able to pay per year for college,” DPMHS college counselor Linda Zimring said. “College financial aid offices have the ability to override the decision of the FAFSA based on special circumstances.”
Students can find out more about colleges and financial aid through a group on Schoology called “DPMHS College Updates,” which Torres has set up, and is open to all students at DPMHS. The code to join is S37T-BQ2R-9PWBB. Seniors can also explore colleges they are interested in through virtual tours.
“There’s tons of virtual tours being hosted,” Torres said. “Every campus is offering workshops these days. Some campuses are offering tours and application workshops.”
There are many things for seniors to consider when applying to college, especially during a pandemic. Luckily, there are many resources available, and counselors Torres and Zimring, as well as DPMHS Magnet Coordinator Leah Pevar, are working hard to help.
“I think my biggest advice right now is (for seniors to) keep their options open,” Pevar said. “The world is changing a lot right now. Explore all the different options available to you.”