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‘I felt immeasurably stuck’: High school seniors face college acceptances, rejections alone

  • March 02, 2021

remote learning was weighing on her, and the final high school memories she had looked forward to disappeared one-by-one as she lost her homecoming, prom and graduation. 

“Before senior year even started, I was ready for it to be over,” she recalled. “School became considerably less enjoyable when there were no longer sweet memories attached. To be honest, I stopped caring for a while. I felt immeasurably stuck.”

How to salvage special back-to-school moments amid a pandemic

‘A really lonely experience’

Before the pandemic, college hopefuls already had a lot on their plates. They had to maintain a strong GPA, write stellar essays and ace standardized exams. However, Wyatt Carter, a teen from Salisbury, North Carolina, had even greater challenges this year, which the pandemic exacerbated. His father died, and the next day, he had to take his ACT.

How to get your remote learning act together for fall

Alice Helms, meanwhile, anticipated the ups and downs of the college application process, but she was was hoping to have friends by her side to ease her stress. Instead, she found herself submitting applications alone.

“I had a really difficult time getting in the groove of things,” Helms said. “It was hard to just sit down and do things because of constantly being on the computer for classes.”

Helms felt drained and unmotivated.

“You know at school, at least your buddies are around you. But it was difficult for me to start my applications, and I actually ended up waiting until the last week to get everything turned in.”

‘An unprecedented time’

John Kim, from Saratoga, California, on the other hand, has plenty of reasons to celebrate. He got into Emory University, Indiana University and University of Massachusetts Amherst.

SAT and ACT optional as a result.

“I registered to take the SAT in March, May, and June, but those tests ended up being cancelled due to the stay-at-home orders or schools closing,” he said.

Kim was finally able to take the test in October, and his grind paid off.

“I was able to pull a 1560, partly because I knew this was the one and only test I could probably take.”

As Helms waits to find out in April if she’s gotten in to New York University, she is focusing on staying positive. 

“The school you go to won’t define who you are or who you’ll be,” the North Carolina teen said. 

The students USA TODAY spoke to for this story readily shared their tips for dealing with the college waiting game in a pandemic. 

How to cope with rejections from your ‘dream school’

  • Online communities offer social support: Carter suggested turning to online platforms to find a community to connect with. 
  • Prioritize self-care: Leverton suggested using non-academic hobbies such as baking and scrapbooking as healthy distractions. 
  • Remember not to pin your self-worth on college acceptances: Helms emphasized there’s more to you than where you go to college. 

How to get your remote learning act together for fall

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