Seniors Reflect on Tumultuous College Admissions Process

This year’s seniors were sophomores when COVID-19 forced the students of Berkeley High School into lockdown, so they began their junior year in isolation.


This year’s seniors were sophomores when COVID-19 forced the students of Berkeley High School (BHS) into lockdown, so they began their junior year in isolation.

For some, this changed their outlook on their plans for the years following high school. The college application process, which typically starts during junior year, commenced for these students not at the College and Career Center (CCC), but virtually.

Ultimately, the specifics of a college application journey is up to the individual. Students’ process lasts until the later part of senior year, when applicants receive word of admission, and then make final decisions about where they’ll be for the following year by May 1.

Adeline French, a senior in Academic Choice (AC), found that it benefitted her to be removed from her peers when she began to think about college. She decided to not take the SAT or apply to schools with prestigious names because doing so wasn’t necessarily important to her. Instead, she focused on aspects such as a school’s location and party life.

“Those were things I would have pushed aside to fulfill people’s expectations of me since I am a straight A student and do well on my AP tests,” French said. “I was expected to go to a super prestigious school, but that’s not really what I wanted. [COVID-19] gave me the space to figure out what I did want.”

Isabel Labra, a senior in Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), took time for introspection during the period of isolation. In doing so, she decided to take a community college route instead of attending a four-year college right away.

Labra said if it wasn’t for the pandemic, she would have chosen to go to a four-year school and do standardized testing because “it’s just what you do.”

She had decided that community college would help her avoid debt from the cost of college. This also paired well with her wanting more time to choose what she wanted to pursue in the future.

She plans to undergo the University of California (UC) Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) program, which promises a spot at one of six specific UC campuses after two years of community college, as long as a student meets the GPA requirements.

“I was stressed about going to community college because there is that underlying feeling that you’re not going to be successful and that you’re going to miss opportunities like the college experience,” Labra said. “But I stuck with my gut … I think it was the right decision for me.”

Berkeley International High School (BIHS) student Emma Lynch applied to multiple schools through early action, which is a non-binding way of increasing the chances of acceptance into schools while reducing the stress of anticipation. They were accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last December, which allowed them to determine how they would continue the application process earlier than a regular application would.

“I didn’t let people know when I had gotten in because I was worried that other people’s perceptions about the school would influence me,” Lynch said. “I want to go to a school because it’s the right fit for me.”

For AC senior Shani Griffin, starting the application process as quickly as possible helped her avoid associated stress. Her freshman year, Griffin sat down with a counselor and outlined a plan that detailed what she would major in, how long she wanted to attend college, and her budget.

Griffin wasn’t so greatly impacted by the pandemic that she wrote a college essay about it. Instead, she wrote about a topic that she felt more personally connected to.

When the Common Application was available for submission, Griffin turned in her prewritten essays and then focused on obtaining scholarships.

She enlisted in an online sports recruitment process to find schools based on their track programs. Griffin heard from varying colleges through the recruitment website.

“I felt like with the whole application process, it’s schools picking you, but with the recruitment process, it’s you picking schools and then if it matches, it matches,” Griffin said.

Even with a 4.0 GPA, list of extracurriculars, and competitive soccer under her belt, French got into just one of the 10 schools she applied to. Although the school where she was accepted, the University of Oregon, was initially her second choice, only getting into one school made her feel as though she didn’t have a choice at all.

“College is a means to an end,” French said. “I’ll end up where I’m meant to be and if the college I pick isn’t the right choice, the next one will be.”