COVID-19 is Creating Huge Changes in the College Search and Application Process for High School Students


Jeremy Barande

Ecole polytechnique from Paris, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

After almost two years since the start of the pandemic, Orono high school students continue to adjust to the new changes in the processes for their college search and applications. The most notable change has been the lack of in person communication and visits.

Since the beginning of 2020, Orono Schools have been in and out of in-person learning in order to keep the students, staff and community safe. This approach has limited many colleges and universities to virtual visits only, which reduces necessary human connection and interaction many require. Many juniors and seniors report missing out on the campus visit when trying to find options for themselves after they have graduated from high school.

“Search process has been so impacted by COVID, students are behind where they normally would be at this time because they haven’t had opportunities to get on campus and tour and really make good educated decisions for themselves,” OHS counselor, Jamie Menne said.

According to the article, College Admissions and Covid-19: An Evolving Landscape published by the American Foreign Service Association, the pandemic has significantly altered what deciding on colleges and getting a feel for what college life is like. Although in person opportunities have been lessened, colleges are continuing to find ways to reach out to students and interact. Whether it is through websites for virtual tours, YouTube videos, webinars, virtual college fairs or other opportunities, colleges strive to connect with high school students.

“We’ve had to limit those off campus visitors and I think colleges are being creative with finding other ways to connect with students,” associate principal, Jeffery Aman said.

Even with the strain the pandemic has brought, students strive to utilize the options available to the best of their abilities. With campus visits unavailable, colleges have had to rely on their websites and social media platforms to appeal to students.

“COVID did help me find new colleges because everything was online and I could do virtual tours and meet with representatives virtually,” senior Patrick McCabe said.

In addition to the search process, application numbers throughout the senior class at Orono High school are smaller than in previous years, most likely due to the limited number of opportunities. The timeline has been slightly pushed back.

“Normally at this point in time, we have about seventy percent of the senior class applied and right now we have sixty percent,” Menne said.

The counselors at Orono recognize that although application numbers are down, that students generally are applying to more schools than before COVID. It is possible that this is resulting from the lack of in person tours and college representative visits but it may also be from colleges not requiring the standardized testing; the ACT or SAT.

According to, Emmi Haward, executive director of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools, colleges are guilty of looking at test scores or certain aspects exclusively. Now with COVID, colleges are working to expand what is looked at while applying and take into consideration how it has impacted those applying.

“I like test scores being optional because I am not a good test taker but my grades are good. Being able to choose was very beneficial to me while applying,” senior Morgan McPherson said.

According to, Jeff Selingo, author of Who Gets In and Why, six hundred schools have gone test optional throughout the United States, and now with the pandemic, many are extending the option another year for the high school class of 2022. This allows those who may not have done well on standardized tests, to still have a chance at being accepted into a school.

As well as an increase of schools becoming test optional, both Common App and many colleges are including additional questions about how COVID has impacted the student applying and gives them an opportunity to explain anything that needs to be explained. According to an article published by Common App, they are providing students space to elaborate on how the pandemic has affected them both personally and academically. This helps provide colleges with the information they need and allows students to express their individual experiences.

“Understand that our students that are applying this year don’t look like the students that have applied every year because they haven’t had the job and volunteer opportunities, club activities and sports,” Menne said.