United in Isolation: A Class of 2021 College Experience


Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay.

Ah, the college process. There’s nothing more exciting for a high school senior than finding that perfect school to lead you down the path to the rest of your life (no pressure). The highlight of every senior’s fall likely includes endless campus tours, info sessions, and interviews, often accompanied by parents who may or may not agree with their child on college choices—either way, their contribution probably includes numerous questions like “Will my child still be able to get in with a 1200 on the SAT?” and “Can my child REALLY do anything with that degree?” It’s all a busy, but helpful way for a student to figure out what they want out of a school and narrow down their choices.

Alas, I am a member of the Class of 2021, also known as the class that had their entire senior year stolen by a global pandemic. What does this mean for me? Well to give you a clue, I had to Google “what do seniors normally do when they apply to college” to write this article because I have very little idea. Sure, I know all about filling out the dreaded Common App, FAFSA, scholarships, and writing supplements; they all start to look less daunting when you realize that the questions are repeated on everything, I promise. While I haven’t attended an in-person info session, the number of webinars I’ve watched since August would make your head spin. I’ve even done two Zoom interviews as of the time I’m writing this, and I have another next week.

But what about everything else, the experiences of being physically on campus and talking to people, that moment I’m supposed to have where I gaze lovingly across a college quad and say “Aha, this is it!”

Those moments I know nothing about. Out of the 13 colleges I have applied to (yes, I know it’s a lot), I have only briefly been on the campuses of 3. I have never looked in on a college class, talked one-on-one with a student, or gotten to rate my dining experiences of each school. On moving day in the fall, I’ll still be unfamiliar with the campus of whatever college I choose, even the ones I think I know a lot about. For all I know, my school could have Pitch Perfect-like strangely serious (and cultlike) acapella groups. Maybe I’ll walk out of the library one day and see an army reminiscent of the White Walkers in Game of Thrones, only to be told “Oh yeah, we like to raise them from the dead to boost school spirit.” Worse yet, maybe all the dining halls will have terrible food. The dangers are endless.

Besides the campus itself, I also simply haven’t gotten to form my own special bond with a college in the way so many seniors have in the years before me.  While I’m sure I will once I actually choose a school and get there, I still can’t help but fear that it won’t be what I expected and I’ll end up wanting to transfer. It makes sense that I applied to 13 colleges now, huh?

The main source of comfort I have had during this whole abnormal college process, however, is that at least I am not the only one experiencing it. My entire class is made up of confused second-semester seniors who have no idea what we’re doing, united in our isolation! Furthermore, every senior class across America is likely experiencing something similar. When we all end up at college together we will be the confused Class of 2025, bonding over the proms we missed and praying that another pandemic doesn’t hit us again in four years. 

So I’m not that worried—I swear. I’ll make my decision on or before May 1st, and I’ll find a place in my new school. And if I don’t, at least I still have all the answers to college app questions saved in my Google Drive, ready for another round of the process.