Pandemic changes college application process

Olivia Kane, Senior Editor

The college search process for Friends Seminary seniors has been made more difficult by the pandemic. COVID-19 has required colleges to set strict social distancing guidelines, and many schools have not been able to offer in-person tours, information sessions, or interviews. 

The lack of in-person possibilities has resulted in colleges expanding their virtual options. Colleges that did not offer virtual tours before have now included them on their websites to stay competitive with other schools. Colleges have also seen a dramatic increase in the number of students engaging with their virtual options. To provide online options many colleges have turned to YouVisit, a platform that weaves multiple media types into a single experience. It transforms traditional photos and videos into immersive and interactive content. Between March 13 and April 13, nearly 1.4 million people viewed a virtual campus tour created by YouVisit, a 228% increase from the spring of 2019. 

Many colleges have chosen to use 360-degree video, a tool that provides students with panoramic views of campuses, and virtual reality to welcome prospective students to their campuses. With more opportunities moving online, colleges have also expanded their virtual information sessions to include panels with current students and alumni. 

Despite these different ways to engage with colleges, seniors feel that their ability to connect with certain colleges has been negatively impacted. Beatrice Moyers ‘21 feels that it has been much harder to look at schools. “It would be definitely helpful to look at a school in person,” she said. “There is kind of just this instinctual base level thing you get from seeing a place in person.”

But as many colleges explored different options, Ananya Modi ‘21, thinks that conversations with current students, virtual rep visits to Friends, drop-in hours with faculty and Deans of Admission, and panel discussions have helped her build genuine connections with schools. “While a campus visit might have been ideal, realistically thinking, I would not have been able to visit all college campuses or had so many different opportunities to connect as are possible virtually,” she said. “It’s also nice that the virtual offerings are more flexible.”

Engaging with schools primarily online has been difficult for some students, making it important for schools to have available online options. Moyers also said that the colleges that have not updated their virtual options are less likely to make it on to her final list. She acknowledged that some schools might have fewer resources than others.“When I’m looking into a school, and I see that they have no virtual tour, nothing, it makes me feel unsure about that school,” she said. “They are not trying to reach out to people and they are not making any effort to adapt to the present moment.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced many colleges to conduct virtual interviews over Zoom. This new format has changed how Friends seniors feel about the interview process. Moyers agreed that having online interviews is important but also said that they can feel less formal than a more traditional in-person interview. She said, “It’s strange because you’re in your home so it’s weird to just feel like you’re about to embark on an important experience.”

Modi viewed the virtual interviews as an opportunity to reduce anxiety saying, “I find interviews a bit stressful and sometimes intimidating and it has been great to be able to be prepared, relax, have my notes, and do them from the comfort of my home.” 

The college application process this year is different from prior years. The class of 2021 must find ways to connect with colleges despite the more limiting virtual opportunities and participate in virtual interviews. Modi expressed an eagerness to leave the stress of applying in the time of COVID-19 in the past. “After it is over and I know where I will spend the next four fantastic years, I am most looking forward to savoring my senior year,” she said.