BOCA RATON, Fla. — What does applying for college look like during a pandemic?
High school juniors and seniors are facing challenges they never expected due to COVID-19.
Rising seniors have a multitude of things to consider this year: Will they apply to a college or university that is test-optional? Will they still have to take their SAT or ACT if they haven't already?
To say his senior year wasn't what Ariel Hus expected is an understatement.
"It was horrible. I had to work 10 times harder to learn," said Hus.
He graduated from Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton and said virtual learning is simply not for him.
Hus starts his undergrad classes on a pre-med track at the University of Miami in the fall. Covid-19's effect on his senior year will continue into his first semester at college.
"Basically, I felt that since I wasn't able to completely finish certain classes like chemistry that maybe I should retake it the next semester and double up on my sciences, so that's what I did," Hus said.
Fortunately, Hus worked with college adviser Dr. Bonnie Rabin. She owns College Career Consulting and said this year there are a few changes when applying for college.
She advises students to find out what schools are test-optional, which means they will not require SAT or ACT scores to apply.
"For the large part that part of admissions has disappeared, and it's a great year if you're a student that doesn't test well or hasn't tested," said Rabin.
She said some students who are depending heavily on extracurricular activities, like sports or music, need to find other ways to show their continued connection to their interests.
"Students have to rebrand, replace, think of new ways that they can demonstrate they are connected to their interests, and that's challenging but not impossible," Rabin said.
The pandemic also has changed how prospective students can tour campuses.
"They've replaced visits, and overnight stays for rising seniors with Zoom sessions with current students, and I really encourage people to take advantage of those," Rabin said.
While Rabin knows not everyone can afford a private college adviser, she said students should speak to their high school college counselor, check out free programs online and find private advisers who do pro bono work.
Shiri Hus, Ariel's mother, advises parents to get involved and offer support.
"Parents definitely need to give that extra support right now even more than ever because it's challenging emotionally or them for all of us, but they're the ones that end up having to do the work and get into the college," Shiri Hus said.