COVID-19 and its impact on seniors’ college applications


Evangalia Guigley

Many seniors had plans to look at colleges over the summer before COVID-19 happened.

After living through this year’s summertime sadness, nothing scares seniors anymore. Applying to college, a rite of passage for students across the country, is a complicated process that many students start thinking about as early as elementary school. However, “Summertime Sadness” isn’t the only thing from the early 2010’s that’s becoming increasingly applicable to seniors’ current life. From canceled college tours to vacant spaces on resumes, COVID-19, and the disastrous summer it caused, has forced seniors to rethink their approach to this important process.  

“It’s just not the same,” senior Clare Seo said regarding college applications. 

Seo planned to spend the last few weeks of junior year and the following summer touring colleges improving her test scores and adding essential junior-year activities to her resume. COVID-19 had an impact on all her initial plans.

“I was signed up for the July ACT, and so I went to the testing center, which was out of state, only for it to be canceled,” Seo said. 

The cancellations didn’t stop there. The lack of college tours this summer impacted many MSMS students’ opportunities to explore their options. Their inability to look at schools outside Mississippi has made many of them uncertain of which university would provide a perfect fit.

“I had multiple college tours planned before COVID-19 hit,” senior Laney Etheridge said. “I have absolutely no idea where I want to go to college. It’s really a difficult decision, especially since I haven’t been able to go and get a feel for the atmospheres of the universities I’m interested in.”

This COVID-19 alteration did not disappoint every student, however. 

“I feel pretty confident about the colleges I’m applying to this year,” senior Kate McElhinney said. “I definitely would feel more confident if I could visit the campuses and feel the general aura of the environments, but I think that I’ve picked schools that will fit me well.” 

Regardless of how confident students feel about their college choices, their main focus is getting accepted. While they all vary in competitiveness, colleges have an affinity for high-achieving, successful students. Although many people come to MSMS already accomplished, for top colleges, dedicated students push themselves throughout all four years of high school and complete their most impressive activities at the end of their junior year.

“I do think my resume could look better if COVID-19 didn’t happen. My summer program got canceled as well as my mentorship,” senior Aabha Mantri said. 

Etheridge agreed. “I absolutely feel like my application quality has been reduced due to COVID-19, and it took away opportunities that could have possibly helped me appeal more to a top-tier college.”

College isn’t the only thing on seniors’ minds, however. Adjusting to the current global situation has been challenging for many. 

“The physical and mental stress that came with the pandemic took a toll on my academic life,” Etheridge said.

This sentiment, shared by seniors across the country, inspired MSMS counselors to promote wellness, providing resources to improve physical, emotional and social health. Counselors will meet with seniors to discuss their plans and the entire MSMS English department will help students write their essays.

Applicants believe the college admissions process should consider the extraordinary pressure COVID-19 has created.

“I’m hoping colleges will be a bit more forgiving this year when reading our resumes because I don’t think anyone’s resume is as airtight as they would like them to be,” McElhinney said. 

Some colleges already have gotten rid of their standardized test requirement, and many have pledged to be considerate about students’ summer activities and final junior year grades. This will be necessary since the repercussions of COVID-19 have reverberated throughout much of the college application process. From foiled summer projects to additional stresses, seniors are being forced to reevaluate their approach to admissions. However, many students are determined not to let this pandemic hinder their goals.

“Even though there are missed opportunities because of COVID-19, I feel that through my essay and current resume, it still showcases who I am as a person and student really well,” McElhinney said. “I’m trying to look on the bright side and hope it’ll work out for the best.”