Applying to colleges has always been a challenging endeavor, but this year, to continue the theme of 2020, it has become a lot more complicated.
If you were to ask any individual who graduated from high school about the college application process, they would all give some generic answer about how stressful but rewarding it was. To the graduating seniors of 2021, the idea of college applications has been slightly skewed. Applying to go to college, while very common, is still a major change for every person. Having to decide what state to live in for the next four years and choosing a pathway to study that will ultimately shape future careers is already a lot of pressure to put on someone who hasn’t even finished high school yet. With COVID-19 mixing up life in every way possible, more change in the form of applying to college can be a complicated task for seniors.
With remote learning still in effect for the foreseeable future, college resources for seniors have also been virtual. This means that students are required to take the extra step to exhibit self advocacy in order to get any help they need. Whether the help needed is with college applications, scholarships, transcripts, or letters of recommendation, Emily Webster has been regularly assisting TJ’s seniors by running the TJ Future Center virtually. Webster noted, “This year is different because we have to work together in different ways to make sure that Spartan seniors are getting done what they need to get done. It’s certainly requiring a lot more independence from you all because I can’t, for example, go to your classroom and be like ‘hey you forgot to do this, let’s go to the Future Center for ten minutes and get it done’ and be there supporting you through the process.” For Webster, communicating with students and making sure they are on track is challenging this year, so it’s crucial that they take the extra step by consistently checking the future center page and emailing Webster for support. “Being so reliant on electronic communication and the Schoology page is new for everyone. Normally, we would be able to be in person talking about these things together and you could just drop in as you had questions,” added Webster.
Although there are many unique challenges being faced by seniors this year, TJ has done an overwhelmingly great job of making sure students are on track to go to college. Spartans have submitted over 500 college applications already, which is definitely something to be celebrated. Lauren Reid, a senior at TJ, has contributed four college applications to that growing number this year. Although Reid has verbally committed to play Division I soccer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, she had to complete the same virtual application process that other seniors did. Reid described this process as “very stressful having to make sure that each thing was submitted, each college got everything they needed to, that you did it right, and that all the websites were linked to each other. There were so many different steps and it was super confusing to try and figure out everything.”
Understandably, being in a virtual environment will lead to miscommunications and a greater struggle to receive the help and resources necessary. That being said, TJ’s staff members, such as Webster and the four counselors, have been going above and beyond to make sure our students are equipped to handle the obstacles that may come their way. Reid continued, “I did get all of the help I needed with the Future Center sending out consistent reminders and videos of instructions on how to do things. It was pretty simple to figure out, but extremely stressful nonetheless.” Since the Future Center was prepared to assist students through college applications via the Common App, had detailed links for transcript and letter of recommendation requests, provided calendars to keep students and parents on track, had walkthroughs on how to set up FAFSA and other scholarship applications, and taught students how to properly set up profiles on MaiaLearning, the official website used this year to aid distribution of college applications, minimal obstacles existed throughout this process. The only major issue Reid faced during her submissions was “if my internet was bad it wouldn’t let me submit. As a result, schools sometimes didn’t receive my applications or parts of my transcripts, so that was pretty difficult.” With a strong internet connection, anything is possible for Spartans looking to continue their education.
As a student who has completed over ten college applications this semester, I would urge all of the Spartan seniors to consistently check their emails, follow the fall timeline linked in the Schoology page, and follow the proper steps to ensure your application is complete. As a final thought, Webster urges, “Check in with one another about your college processes. You are going through this together, remotely, and just asking how it is going can be impactful in showing support to one another. Those of you who are farther along in the process already have this experience and know what the process is like, so you should check in with your classmates to see if they need help or have questions.” Once your applications are submitted and you’ve done everything you can, try not to stress too much. Enjoy your senior year and whatever happens, the Spartan family will support you beyond your years at TJ.