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7 Tips for Applying to College During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Applying to college — especially during a pandemic — can be a stressful experience. Holy Cross Senior Associate Director of Admission Drew Carter shares some of his top tips for applying to college during COVID-19 to help you maximize your application's strength in an unprecedented time.



1. Take Advantage of Virtual Sessions

During this pandemic, colleges and universities across the country are providing virtual opportunities for students to learn about their offerings. Daily information sessions, virtual campus tours and live chats with admissions counselors and current students are readily available, and you can learn about as many colleges as you want from the comfort of your home. 

2. Choose Your Essay Topic Wisely

When applying to college, students should write about the topic they really want to write about — not the topic they think they should write about. And don’t worry about having to explain how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your life — there will be a separate section on the Common Application to address this, so you’re free to focus your admissions essay on any topic you truly want to explore. 

3. Focus on What You Have Done

You may feel your application is at a disadvantage because of school-related opportunities you had to miss because of COVID-19 — such as internships, club sports, and other activities. But instead of focusing your essay topic or interview conversation on those missed opportunities, we want to hear about the things you HAVE done — helping parents at home with work or childcare, learning to cook or Zooming with a relative or friend who is isolated during the pandemic.  

4. Sign Up for College Admissions’ Mailing Lists

“We’re all in this together” applies to schools and universities, too, which have had their normal application and admissions cycles impacted by the pandemic. Many are changing deadlines and requirements for applications, so to ensure you’re getting the latest information from the schools you are interested in, sign up for their email lists so you don’t miss important application updates. 

5. Focus on Your Senior Fall Classes

We get it — last spring semester was not ideal, and students encountered interrupted coursework, canceled standardized tests and incredible academic and personal challenges. No matter what happened in the spring, a renewed focus on your academics this fall will demonstrate to colleges that you are still focused and will demonstrate your resilience and ability to overcome challenges. 

6. Don’t Stress (Too Much) About Standardized Tests

Colleges all across the country have suspended their testing requirement this year, and if you choose not to submit any scores with your application, admissions officers will not assume it’s because you did poorly on the test. Many test-optional colleges have followed this policy for years: simply considering test scores as part of your application if they are submitted, and not giving them any thought if they are not. 

7. Keep the College Admissions Process in Perspective

“Unprecedented time” is the way we describe it, but what it means for high school students is a time of managing home life, navigating coursework and applying to college under conditions that no one ever expected. Look for opportunities to demonstrate resilience and grace: find ways to help out in your school, your community and your home and, at the same time, take care of yourself. 

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