The class of 2021 is following its predecessors by taking hit after hit in one of the most tumultuous years of their generation. Living through a pandemic, election cycle, and high pressure academic season is stressful, and something that I’ve experienced firsthand. The time spent on school and the college decision process hasn’t made things easy either.
For me, travel restrictions and lack of college tours was the most challenging. Unless a school’s campus was open and in state, there was no chance that I would be able to visit it before application deadlines passed this fall. This meant that I had to remove some colleges from my list, after realizing how travel expenses and complications would affect my future at that institution. I took advantage of virtual tours, one-on-one admissions sessions, and current student experiences to get a feel for schools on my list, and how they could support my interests. I am almost finished with the process of applying to my chosen list of schools under Early Action deadlines, but anticipate more changes as I look for scholarships and financial aid.
Taylor Watts, a graduating senior at Whitney Young, is a Chicago Scholar and participates in a mentorship cohort to promote success in secondary education. This meant that she had to apply to five schools by the end of the first month of school, and Watts is now completing her early applications at the same time as me. She says, “The days definitely switch off between being very motivating and indolent. Initially, I felt very unprepared, especially having to transition to online learning at the end of junior year, which is supposedly a really crucial time in the college application process. But I’m really thankful for all the help I’ve received from Chicago Scholars to help me get on track.”
These feelings are definitely universal, because virtual learning has proven to be a challenge! Balancing healthy screen time with constant calls and electronic homework can deeply affect a student’s mental health. Watts also said that “now I find that researching colleges and envisioning myself in the space when doing so makes the process a lot more enjoyable, and the satisfaction of finally submitting applications and receiving acceptances and scholarship offers makes the process more motivating!” Colleges have been very accommodating in this aspect, offering virtual tours and one-on-one sessions with admissions counselors to help students see themselves at an institution.
Seniors are all under stress right now, so check in on your upperclassmen! Offer to help review materials they may need to submit or just give support and validation toward hardworking students. Until next time, stay safe and stay inside, teens!
By Leah Ollie, senior at Whitney Young Magnet High School
@leahgraceollie on Instagram