App advice: applying for college amid a pandemic

By Mia Croff, Staff–

Graphic including several quotes from current seniors on college applications.

During an ordinary school year on campus, the Davis High counseling department would host college workshops, the Academic Center would offer essay assistance and Julie Clayton from the Career Center would be available to answer any questions regarding scholarships, financial aid or college appeal. However, at the start of this college application season, these normally easily accessible resources are either overloaded or not yet fully operational.  

Despite the obstacles of the distance learning format, DHS seniors are finding ways to successfully navigate the college application process and getting answers to important questions.  

Senior Nicole Holt completed her application to Montana State University over the summer at the start of July. Holt was recently accepted to MSU and is excited to be an incoming Bobcat of the 2021-22 school year.

“I was pretty nervous filling out the application,” Holt said. “I got hung up on the essays a bit, but I got some help and worked through it.”

Effectively written, appealing essays are the focal point of any good college application. Hence, there is high pressure among applicants to write the best piece possible. Whether it be for the short personal insight questions or a response to a Common Application prompt, what is written is a significant factor in whether an applicant is admitted or not. 

Googling a simple phrase like “college essay tips” can provide an applicant with hundreds of sources to choose from in mere seconds. It’s important to use the resource sparingly, according to Elodia Alvarez, head of the Academic Center. 

“When you look up ‘how to make my college essay stand out,’ keep in mind that those are also the tips they are giving to everyone else Googling the same question,” Alvarez said.

It is also important for seniors to remember that essays are the aspect of their applications that allows for colleges to get a glimpse of their personality and character. The importance of individuality cannot be emphasized enough. 

“Make sure that whenever you’re writing the essays, it’s you on that paper,” Alvarez said. “Because at the end of the day, they want to get to know you for who you are.”

However, this is easier said than done. Senior Claudia Perry struggled with keeping her essays from appearing “superficial.”

“Colleges want you to go in depth to get to know you, not just surface level.  So, I’m trying not to make it as though I’m just telling them about stuff that’s happened,” Perry said. 

With that in mind, Perry successfully completed rough drafts for all her UC essays. She is currently going through her revision process. 

Another frequent question that has loomed in the minds of seniors is whether they should take the SAT and submit their score to colleges.

“I actually got to take the SAT that day after school closed,” senior Sarah Levy said. “But I’m still deciding whether or not to submit it [because of the changes made regarding testing requirements by colleges].”

Due to the pandemic, testing sites have been closed and SAT tests canceled, which is why many colleges have adopted a test-optional or test-blind policy. 

In June, the Making Care Common Project from Harvard Graduate School released “Care Counts in a Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19,” a collective statement endorsed by over 300 college admissions deans nationwide. 

Under “Academic Work,” the statement clarifies “no student will be disadvantaged because of […] their lack of access to standardized tests (although many of the colleges represented here don’t require these tests).”  Therefore, SAT scores aren’t an important factor in college admissions this year and won’t be heavily weighed, if at all. 

“There are other ways [than the SAT] that [colleges] can see how well you’ve done by the rigor of your classes, how well you did in those classes or if you happened to take an AP test,” head counselor Catherine Pereira said. 

Although many DHS seniors are advancing through the sets of the college application process, some are left confused with questions.  

“[If they need help] students can email their counselors or the Career Center for help,” said Julie Clayton, head of the Career Center. “They can also find helpful applications on the website of the colleges they are applying to.”

In order to help seniors, the counseling department is trying to make itself as available as possible and the Career Center is hosting fall virtual college visits throughout September and October.  

“Remember, don’t stress, give yourself plenty of time and try to have fun with it,” Alvarez said. “You will get through this and you will be happy with the result.”

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