Staff Seniors on the Trials of Covid College Season

No one needs any reminder about what a strange and stressful year it’s been. As expected, the inherently confusing college process became even more difficult for the class of 2021. This year, seniors managed the ups and downs of completing college applications while isolated from peers. For some, this provided relief from the unnecessary competition that surfaced in years past, while others feel disconnected from those who usually provide help and reassurance–whether they be teachers, counselors, or friends. We’ve compiled the various thoughts of our senior staffers on their application processes, so no matter what you’re feeling, our staffers are probably feeling it too. We hope this can provide some insight and reassurance. 


Claire Porter 

I’m honestly quite glad that I don’t have a bunch of other seniors around me talking about the colleges they are applying to and getting accepted into. I know it would stress me out more than it would motivate me. I talk to my friends about the colleges they are applying to, and it motivates me to work on applications. I’m glad that my dad is a professor at a university because he really helps me with the applications process.


Annie Fortune  

I thought that I wanted to reach the highest level of school possible. I planned on applying to some very high-reach schools and hoped for the best. I would go where I could get in and where I could get decent money. Much of this desire was external. I knew that, inside of me, that is not what I wanted. I wanted to be closer to home and in a true college town. Being at home, away from my peers, took away all social pressure of this decision. Deep down, I am secure in my decision on where I am going, because I know that it came from me and what I want. It was not a decision made because of what other people from school were doing or what I thought would impress others.


Brooke Elliott

College applications felt like a never-ending cycle. I applied to a number of schools that required detailed personal essays and portfolios, and balancing school, college applications, social life, and time for rest was exhausting. Every time I completed an application, I felt as though another was just around the bend, lying in wait. I eventually did complete all of my college applications, and I am filled with an overwhelming sense of relief. I am excited to experience a vibrant college community and to continue to pursue journalism at one of the top schools for journalism in the country. I do, however, believe that the cost of many college applications (and colleges themselves) is very prohibitive to some people who might want to apply to college; application fees for certain universities can cost upwards of $85. Personally, I am relying on scholarships to ensure that I can attend.


Anna Spollen 

There wasn’t a lot of information given to seniors about applications. For Early Decision, you must meet with your counselor so they know you understand the commitment of it. I had no idea, and if I hadn’t looked into it myself, I might have missed my deadline for my top choice. But overall, the application process felt much less stressful than I was expecting it to be. I felt much more in control of it, and more confident about it without having to hear what others were putting on theirs. I was able to receive positive news in December from Reed College, and quietly celebrated at home without feeling like I was gloating. Though the process was unconventional and a bit lonely at times, I don’t think it could have gone any better. 


Olivia Hayden 

My application process has been bittersweet. It feels surreal that I am having to apply to college already, especially during a pandemic. I am thankful that I was able to visit a few colleges right before COVID-19. I felt overwhelmed at times, but overall the process went really smoothly. For several years, I have known that I want to attend the University of Arkansas, and I was accepted in September. I felt relieved knowing where I would be going so early on. I couldn’t be more excited to take this next step. 


Jane Ellen Dial 

It is hard, because it is not a normal time to be visiting colleges and making decisions. I can’t visit every college I wanted, so that is causing this unknown of, ‘well would this college be better for me?’ But ultimately I have known where I wanted to go, but have compared myself to others so I didn’t want to fully commit. So this time without others talking about where they are going and realizing that all of us are different humans and are meant to go different places has really helped me.


Connor Whitlow 

Pre-pandemic, seniors would compare and brag about all of the colleges that they have gotten into and where they were in the process, and according to some graduates that I have talked to from last year, it made it almost like a competition.  This year, though, no one really talks about where they are or what their process is, or even how many colleges they applied to. Overall, even though everyone is going through all of this during these interesting days, the process has its pros and cons, but more or less equals out and comes with the same feelings and thoughts that it has always come with.


Anna Yates 

I attended a college boot camp over the summer following COVID-19 guidelines and I felt that experience helped me get prepared for writing my essays later in the year. The process has been different in being faced with uncertainty regarding students who took a gap year and along the lines of the unpredictable nature of the virus, but I hope every senior has an opportunity to pursue what they’re interested in after graduation.


Olive Shuffield

Honestly, I think this year has been harder for seniors because it’s difficult to know what to do regarding applying to college and scholarships, all while trying to navigate through this crazy time. It is extremely frustrating, because it feels like last year’s seniors got lots of sympathy; this year, I feel like we get literally nothing. However, it’s understandable since we can’t hold events in a safe way just yet. I just hope we can have our graduation!


Phoebe Raborn 

The submission process of college essays was insanely confusing, only because there was no one else to aid in the process besides my parents. It just takes more energy and discipline to reach out to your counselor rather than asking your peers like we could if we were in class. Even visiting a counselor in person at school was simple and easy, but now I definitely do feel more isolated because I have to figure out most of this important process on my own. I have figured most of it out by now, because I applied early to several colleges, but the communication throughout the process was probably the most difficult part.


Robyn Reed 

This process has been really hard for me. I’m so lost on what I need to do. I haven’t even applied to a college yet. I know I can’t depend on others to guide me every which way, but a little help right now would be great.


Mary Ruth Taylor

I’m a terrible procrastinator, to the extent that I only feel productive when I’m under the pressure of a looming deadline. This was not a helpful character trait during the college application season. Being at home made it worse, because I didn’t get the sense of urgency that I would from being around other seniors. I understand that, for some people, hearing about others’ applications is stressful and causes unnecessary competition, but for me that feeling is needed for motivation. In that way, talking to my friends was really helpful, because they kept me focused. We tried not to be competitive, but to just provide judgement-free support and advice, and that has made all the difference for me.


Anna Cay Vernon 

I think for people who want to go in-state, not hearing a bunch of crazy seniors (me) discussing so many places and fears and plans is probably really nice. But for me, it’s comforting to know that there are others who would also very much like to leave Arkansas, and that they all have no idea where they will end up either. I submitted my last application a while ago, and I’d rather be back in the middle of applying. Because now, I’m not in control. And for me, and probably others too, it’s so stressful. COVID-19 is out of our control along with college; it’s quite a time to be sitting at home, waiting for lower positivity rates and decisions all at once. So, hearing my friends freak out too is pretty comforting, all things considered. 


Rae Green 

This process has definitely been hard, but I’m managing. It makes it easier to work and have other responsibilities, because I don’t have to travel from school, but being at home all day and trying to stay motivated to be on top of your school work is difficult. Still, trying my hardest! There’s also the excitement of getting into my dream school, but the worry of not being able to afford it. I was admitted into Howard University and got financial aid details back, and it wasn’t enough, so the disappointment of redirection exists. However, keeping an open mind for future possibilities is still there!