Every year, the college admissions process seems to throw a new curveball at high school seniors all around America, but this year was one that nobody would have been able to predict.

As a current senior at Mashpee Middle-High School looking to attend a four-year college or university, I am now far along in and quite familiar with the process. However, that is not to say it has been easy. I chose to apply to eight schools: Northeastern, Fordham, Ohio State, Boston College, Boston University, Providence College, Merrimack and Suffolk. So far I have been accepted to six out of the eight schools and am just waiting to hear from Boston College and Boston University. With the current hybrid learning model in place, it was difficult to ask time-sensitive questions to counselors and other staff. While I was at home, I found that I would start to fill a section of the application out and then would reach a roadblock because I did not have certain pieces of information that were crucial to my application such as my exact GPA and class rank among other things.

With most schools closing their doors to on-campus official tours, I had to apply to many schools without ever seeing them in person. While many schools have looked toward virtual tours for potential incoming students, the experience is not comparable to that of an in-person visit. There are many important nuances of in-person tours that cannot be achieved through a computer screen. Seeing how students interact with each other, the presence of school spirit on campus and other small details that are incredibly hard to gauge on a virtual tour can be just as important as the quality of facilities in many students’ cases. I find that I am more compelled to attend the schools that I was actually able to visit than those that I have just walked past or seen online.

Colleges everywhere resorted to a test-optional policy, meaning that you could still submit standardized test scores such as the SAT and ACT but you would not be hindered if you chose not to. I was able to take the SAT twice before the shutdown but ultimately chose not to send my scores, as I knew I had not achieved my desired score. With the SAT out of the mix for most students, more emphasis was put onto GPA, extracurriculars and the college essay. Many had already taken the SAT such as myself, but the next question was whether you should send your scores or not. While many high-level schools declared they were test-optional, no one knew if your chances of admission were going to be hindered based on if you sent your scores or not. Schools such as Georgetown released a statistic stating that only 7.34 percent of its early-action applicants who chose not to submit a standardized test score were admitted.

I think that Mashpee has done a fantastic job supporting my classmates and me through this difficult process. Ms. Kett and Ms. McCuish have been extremely helpful, keeping me apprised of important dates, informing me of opportunities to meet admissions representatives and, most recently, relaying information involving scholarships. Ms. Kett has also been instrumental in guiding me through the appeal process, which has been my most recent step toward making a final decision. The appeal process starts once you have received an offer of admission from a school and they have given you your cost of attendance. Many choose to appeal this offer, as they did not receive a sufficient amount of financial aid to attend a particular school, in hopes that the school will come back with a better financial aid offer. Ms. Goldsmith has done a great job keeping up with a bulletin board that has all of our acceptances on it, which I have enjoyed following. Seeing where my classmates have gotten into is just as exciting for me as figuring out where I am going.

Besides the guidance department, many teachers and staff members at Mashpee Middle-High School have done a great job in assisting me with the process. Senior year is a maze with or without a pandemic, so having staff members who are ready to help at every roadblock I encountered was crucial. The staff members at Mashpee are truly invested in the futures of their students, and I have had several teachers and administrators congratulate me and offer their advice when it comes to college.

Applying to college in the midst of a pandemic has been an interesting experience to say the least. With the current hybrid learning model in place, it has been difficult to apply, but as with everything in the past year, you just have to learn to adjust. If anything, it makes opening up that acceptance letter that much sweeter knowing the uniqueness and obscurity of the challenge at hand. While I still have quite some time to go before making a final decision, going through such a major step in life while also living through a pandemic has taught me some very valuable lessons in self-management.

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