For the past few months, many Harwood Union High School seniors have been working on and submitting college applications. This can be an extremely stressful time for students. They’re making one of the biggest decisions of their lives in the span of a few months. With the coronavirus disrupting many aspects of daily life, Harwood seniors have been navigating college applications with unexpected limitations.
Aliza Jernigan started looking for colleges during the fall of her junior year. Jernigan was planning to visit all the schools she was looking at during April break. But when the country went into the first lockdown, Jernigan had to cancel all of her visits and tours.
Jernigan recently applied to Boston College, her top choice. Jernigan said that Boston College’s location would allow her to experience many new things, such as living in an urban environment, which she really liked. Luckily, Jernigan has relatives in the area which had allowed her to see the campus before the pandemic, but she never got a formal tour which supplies a student with a lot of important information about the school.
“I was definitely more hesitant to apply Early Decision because I didn’t want there to be any surprises. But I think that not being able to see things made me do a lot more of my own research,” Jernigan explained. She ended up applying to 11 schools, but said that seeing the campuses would have helped her narrow down her search quicker.
Jernigan was able to take a formal tour of UVM in February, “which was actually very interesting because I feel like growing up around here, you feel like you know about it [UVM campus], but then doing an actual tour shows you how much more there is to it,” she explained.
This more in-depth look at a school was something that Jernigan missed with her other choices, along with other students such as Eva Hynes.
Hynes was recently accepted to Bates College in Maine. She started seriously looking at colleges around Christmas of last year, thinking that she would have enough time. “I ended up not really having a lot of time because everything shut down and you couldn’t do anything,” said Hynes.
Last October she was able to see Bates and Bowdoin, knowing that she wanted to apply. However, these were the only colleges she was able to tour. She was also planning to go out West in April 2020, but was not able to go because of the pandemic. She applied Early Decision to Bates because “it felt safer, only because I had visited it.” She knew that she liked the campus, as well as many other aspects of the school.
Virtual tours became the main alternative to a normal tour. Although somewhat helpful, Jernigan said, “They were all very surface level,” going over the history of buildings, but not showing what the campus was really like. Jernigan did say that the ones she had done improved over time because of the pandemic. “You don’t get a sense of the size and scale in general and obviously you don’t get a sense of the culture through a screen,” she explained.
Hynes took a virtual tour of Colby College. “Some of the virtual tours are really nice and well done. Obviously, it’s not the same, but I think that colleges did a really good job adapting,” Hynes said. Both students said that the virtual tours only showed the main parts of campus.
“Sometimes it’s the really small parts of the school that make it stand out to you,'' H