Seniors adjust to college searches during COVID

As senior Sara Goodenbour stepped under the arch of Wartburg College’s entrance, she was one of few high school students who were able to continue to visit campuses through the coronavirus pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit many different communities, affecting everything from grocery shopping to job stability. This year, colleges are experiencing a lack of revenue as rates of returning students drop. High school seniors are among the latest victims, learning how to choose a college when social gatherings are either limited or completely eliminated altogether.

Goodenbour does not have a specific college in mind quite yet. “I have not yet started the college admissions process; however I have been trying to schedule visits and campus tours with a few colleges I am interested in. I’ve only been able to visit Wartburg’s campus this summer, so I’m kind of behind on the college search process.” Goodenbour said. 

Most college campuses are not currently offering campus tours. This makes events like visit days very different for seniors. “The biggest challenge has been, of course, closed campuses due to COVID and virtual college visits. I want to first hand experience life on campus so I can determine the best fit for me and my interests, but it has been an extremely difficult journey so far with the closings and visits only offered online,” Goodenbour said. “I also feel like I have so many options for college, which can be a good thing, but it has been difficult for me to narrow those down.” 

Counselor Erin Gardener said that there are ways around the difficulties that many students are facing. “At this point, seniors can be in many different places. Some are applying, some are choosing between a couple and some are still doing their research on where they want to apply. Right now, there are many colleges who offer virtual tours. The best thing to do is to go to the college’s website and look to see what they are offering,” Gardener said. “If they are not offering tours, contact their admissions office to see if you could do a one on one tour or meet and or talk with their admissions representative to get any questions they might have answered.”

Although the pandemic has presented many difficulties, some shortcomings have also been accompanied by unintended positive consequences. “Right now all of our regent schools have gone test optional meaning students are not required to have an ACT or SAT score to be admitted,” Gardener said. 

Beyond issues due to COVID, Goodenbour is among many high school seniors facing other difficulties with college decisions. Seniors are also dealing with typical admission problems, like picking majors and picking a college that best suits their post-secondary needs. Gardener said that Cedar Falls High School offers many resources to help students with these issues.

“Deciding on a major is a big decision. We have our students use XELLO to do the interesting inventories such as the Matchmaker and Personality Style,” Gardener said. “We also encourage students to go on job shadows. Kelly Kolbiska comes from Career Connections to set students up with a job shadow of their interest. Students can go on two job shadows a year. This is an opportunity for students to go to a job site and talk with a student who currently holds a position in a career that they are interested in. Sometimes they also have an opportunity to watch them perform tasks of their job such as watch a surgery and so on. It is a really neat experience.”

Although COVID has changed many things about her senior year, Goodenbour remains optimistic and chooses to focus on the events and opportunities still available. 

“COVID has changed many things in my daily life, mainly school activities and extracurriculars. For example, our cross country team has been limiting the amount of meets we attend and the amount of girls running,” Goodenbour said. “It makes me so sad to not see our entire team cheering for each other excitedly, but I am thankful that we are still able to have a season. Also, the homecoming dance and prom were cancelled, which makes me a little sad that we won’t be able to have those senior experiences, but I understand that the safety and health of students comes first, and I am looking forward to the homecoming movie night.”


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