College Applications: The Plight of Senior Year

By Nina Davis

New York City, New York

Work piles up quickly during the senior year of high school (Framingham Public Schools)

Fall of senior year: a highschooler's most dreaded semester. The 2022 college admissions process has taken a toll on this year's applicant pool, in more ways than usual.


The third cohort to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the class of 2022 has experienced numerous challenges throughout their college process. From increased application rates to COVID-19 restrictions to campus tours, there has not been an easy moment.


Although the college process takes place mainly in the first semester of a high schooler’s senior year, many students choose to begin preparing for standardized testing (the ACT or SAT, in most cases) during their junior year. At first, it was hard to know if this admissions cycle would continue to adhere to the test-optional policy that many schools adopted for the class of 2021. Ultimately, over 1,785 schools, a record number, chose not to require SAT or ACT scores from applicants seeking to enroll in fall 2022.


Many juniors experienced disruptions to their standardized testing plans. The pandemic forced large numbers of testing centers to close or give seats to other students that were considered higher priority. In some of these cases, the issue was a lack of staff or space to administer the tests, but in other cases, students were not given any warning of their test's cancellation, leaving them to find out the day of the exam.


When Cuatro Villareal, a senior from Saint Ann's School in New York City, arrived at his testing site on the morning of his ACT, no administrators arrived, leading the test to be cancelled. Cuatro does not know why they never came, or didn’t notify anyone, but he thought it had to do with safety concerns due to COVID-19. However, for senior Shayni Richter, COVID-19 cancellations aided her testing process, as the Subject Tests she was planning to take were discontinued.


Campus tours have also been disrupted this admissions cycle. While in any year there are disparities between those who can visit their prospective colleges and those who cannot, travelling to college campuses has been especially challenging because of COVID-19. As universities offer more and more virtual resources to replace in-person experiences, access to information has increased. However, with the return of in-person tours and information sessions, it is hard to gauge what colleges prefer, especially for those that track “demonstrated interest.”


These disruptions to the college admissions cycle have led to an overall lack of certainty and increase in anxiety amongst students, increasing their anxiety. With deadlines approaching and passing, it is hard to balance schoolwork with college application work. Faced with the expectation that the work produced in the first semester of senior year will be representative of you as a student, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. As a senior myself, the burden of wanting to do well in school, visit colleges, and submit applications I’m proud of, all while balancing out-of-school activities, has been a challenge. Even with the support I’ve received, it has felt like an overwhelming and isolating time.


Adding to students’ anxieties, the class of 2021 saw a large increase in applicants, while acceptance rates saw a sharp decline. There was a significant increase in applications across the Ivy League schools: Yale University’s applications increased to 46,905, the largest number the school has ever seen. Out of these thousands only 4.62% were accepted, a decline from the previous year's 6.54%. Similarly, the University of California System saw a large addition in their applications: UCLA was the most applied to school in the nation last year, with a record 139,500 students vying for a spot at the prestigious university.


With all this in mind, the class of 2022 has been hard at work, aiming for a spot at the colleges of their choice. Whatever the outcome, it will be a year to remember.