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Being a high school senior is not an easy task. From challenging classes to college applications, senior year can be a very stressful one.

Throw a global pandemic into the mix and it’s safe to say that the class of 2021 has had to deal with obstacles that few have ever faced.

Since travel, social events and gatherings have nearly all been canceled this year, so have many college visit opportunities. This has led many seniors to rely on YouTube videos and virtual tours. Not being able to visit any campus has made it challenging for us to see if we even like the school in the first place and get a real feel for what school would be like there. I have not had the chance to visit a single college in-person, which has led me to do some serious deep-diving on the internet and social media.

Through my research, I have found that colleges are doing everything they can to engage with prospective students. Aside from virtual college tours, most schools have daily information sessions, virtual activity fairs and student panels. This has enabled seniors to get a better sense of the college and to learn new things about it. I have participated in numerous virtual events and enjoyed getting to “meet” students, staff and alumni at schools across the country.

In addition to shifting admissions events to a virtual platform, most colleges have implemented a SAT/ACT test-optional policy this year due to continued cancellation of testing dates. This has given seniors some much needed breathing room and encouraged them to apply to schools that they had previously considered “reaches.” On the flip side, colleges and universities are seeing a record-breaking number of applications, making it even more difficult to secure for a spot in the upcoming class.

Since many students are now applying test-optional, admissions teams have to evaluate their students on a holistic scale, rather than just based on a score. They are paying even closer attention to the rigor of high school classes taken, grades, essays and recommendations. While COVID-19 has disrupted our normal lives, it has given seniors more time to explore different options and apply to more and different schools than normal, and prompted colleges to reevaluate admissions processes.

Throughout the past year, seniors have faced unprecedented disappointments, challenges and changes, along with the usual pressure of college applications. With the dawn of COVID-19 vaccines and more progress being made every day, there may be a return to “normal” in sight. Come August and September, we’ll be saying hello to our future, equipped with resiliency and with experience to take on the world.

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