An Inquiry into the Pandemic’s Effect on Post-Secondary Plans

By Christina Chkarboul ‘21 

Not only does October usher in crisp autumn breezes, auburn landscapes, and spooky festivities, it’s also the month when Grade 12 students begin to feel the nervous hint of college and university deadlines looming around the corner: that’s right, the post-secondary application season is upon us.

Without a doubt, this year’s graduating year students (GYs) are in for a process that is, like many aspects of our world, wildly unprecedented. The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way we work, learn, live, and, for many of us, the way we approach our post-secondary journeys. With some colleges and universities adjusting application requirements and issuing (sometimes confusing) plans for remote learning for the coming year, it’s safe to say that an already stressful, though exciting, process has been made all the more trying.

As a GY myself, I’ve experienced firsthand the frustrating uncertainties that accompany something as huge and unpredictable as a global pandemic. I’ve had four standardized test dates cancelled since March and, as someone considering university options in the United States, am constantly worried about the worsening of the virus’ threat to public health and the US government’s struggle to unify their efforts to control the spread. 

Mr. Huckvale often meets with GY students to discuss their post-secondary plans.

Over the past week or so, I’ve asked several fellow GYs about the impact of the pandemic on their post-secondary plans:

“COVID-19 has prompted me to apply to more domestic and local schools rather than applying primarily to schools located in the United States.” – Kate Shepherd ‘21

“Generally speaking, the pandemic hasn’t drastically changed my post-secondary plans since I’m applying to Canadian universities. However, there are some aspects that have changed: I had planned on visiting a few campuses of universities I’m interested in over the summer, but they were all closed. Also, I’m told that some universities will be fully virtual during the fall of 2021, so I suppose instead of having a traditional university experience, I’ll be having it online. It’s all very tentative for the time being.” – Zaki Dawoodally ‘21

“How the universities will assess our applications is now ambiguous and changeable. It’s not clear exactly how extracurriculars (or the lack of them, because of restricted opportunities now) will be considered, and to what extent the grades earned through remote learning will be taken into account. Everything seems uncertain.” – Vivien Zhang ‘21

“The SATs that I registered for in May, August, September, and October were all canceled because of the pandemic, and this means that there is a high possibility that I will be applying without standardized test scores, which puts me in a bad situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely had a great impact on my post-secondary pathway.” – Kevin Liu ‘21

“The only big thing that is affected for me was not being able to go on the GY trip to universities that I was quite looking forward to in order to get a good in-person feeling of what the school atmosphere is like. However, I have also seen that some universities have started offering additional virtual tours to aid with this inability to visit the campuses during these new and challenging times, which I appreciate very much. 

“As well, as a result of COVID, many universities now look at only Grade 12 marks due to the online learning that occurred in the later half of last year. This changed my plans quite a bit because I worked hard in Grade 11 to achieve good grades and so now I need to do early admissions in order for universities to only look at my grades from last year.” – Nadine Barone ‘21

While there have been definite road bumps along the way, what with the lack of campus visits and the uncertainty surrounding admissions requirements (especially for US schools), it seems to me that my peers are adjusting well and making use of new options like virtual tours and Zoom info sessions to fill the gap. 

Expectedly, the pandemic has impacted the post-secondary plans not only of current GYs (Class of 2021), but also the students who graduated this past June (Class of 2020). According to our Director of Post-Secondary Counselling, Mr. Huckvale, a few more of last year’s grads than usual decided to take a step back and defer or delay beginning their post-secondary academic journey. However, many have also forged ahead and are engaging in remote learning, some having even settled into on and off campus housing near or their respective campus. 

“While there are still some uncertainties surrounding what Fall 2021 will look like, our GYs seem optimistic about what lies ahead,” says Mr. Huckvale.