Published May 6, 2021
By CARISSA MENDOZA
With this unusual school year coming to a close, the Class of 2021 is on to a new chapter of their lives: life beyond high school. Whether it’s attending community college, taking a gap year or jumping right into a four-year institution, students are paving the way for their futures, despite the novel obstacles the pandemic has posed.
Many students have faced difficulties in the college application process this year. Darren Johnston, a college counselor at Carmel High School, explains that the pandemic has not only made it harder for students to narrow down their lists of prospective schools due to the inability for many to visit campuses, but it has also greatly increased the difficulty in getting admitted.
“There was a dramatic surge in applications to nearly every college, increasing competition and decreasing odds of acceptance,” Johnston notes.
This can largely be attributed to many universities and colleges waiving the standardized testing requirement due to the large number of students who were unable to take the tests this year.
Graziella Cosentino, who plans to attend California Polytechnic State University, explains that not requiring SAT and ACT scores was a relief for her, since it was simply one less thing to worry about. On the other hand, students like Grace Craig, who will attend UC Santa Barbara in the fall, traveled out of state to take these standardized tests to become a more competitive applicant for schools that still accepted scores.
“I went to Nevada to take the SAT,” says Craig. “I was worried that I wouldn’t get the same advantage that students that had already taken it had. I thought having a good score would give me an edge.”
Though the pandemic affected standardized testing, for students like Karen Paz, the pandemic altered future plans much earlier.
“When I was in school, I was doing really well in my classes, but when the pandemic started, I started to fall a bit behind which caused me to fail some classes,” Paz says.
Paz further explains that if the pandemic did not occur, her grades might have been better, making her college application process easier. Despite the previous challenges associated with online learning, Paz is excited to attend Monterey Peninsula College next year and study real estate.
The pandemic also adversely affected soon-to-be collegiate soccer player Elan Hornik, whose post-high school plans were almost dramatically impacted.
“By the time the pandemic hit, I had only made it out to one college to be able to showcase my skills for their program, so when the pandemic shut everything down, I thought my dream was over,” Hornik says. “I almost decided just to quit right there, but I kept pushing myself to talk to more schools and eventually landed my dream spot.”
Hornik’s dream spot is Richmond American International University in London, where Hornik will be a member of the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy. As a sports fan, Hornik is planning to study sports management, a field he has wanted to pursue since the sixth grade.
While the pandemic has taken a toll on many individuals, Ruby DeFloria points out that the shutdowns have allowed her to gain clarity for what she wants in the years to come, allowing her to further plan for the future.
“A four-year university was never necessarily on my radar,” DeFloria says. “Schooling has never necessarily been my thing, and I never felt like college was something I needed in my life.”
With the time the pandemic has freed, DeFloria was able to use her time practicing art, a hobby that would eventually inspire a career path. To improve her resume, DeFloria has opted to take classes at MPC for an associate degree in art.
“That will hopefully lead me to a path of tattooing,” DeFloria explains. “My goal is to have a private studio and be a tattoo artist.”
Similarly, Yungmin Chee explains that the pandemic has given him time to truly reflect on where he wants to live and study over the next four years of his life. Originally wanting to attend a college in Southern California, Chee’s plans were altered during the pandemic when he decided to commit to the University of San Francisco where he plans to study environmental science.
While some students are attending a four-year college, the first year is bound to be different than previous years with COVID restrictions still existent. Anticipating this, Norah Bajari decided to hold off on attending college.
“I never really had a set plan or idea of what I was going to do, but the pandemic definitely affected my decision to wait; I don’t want to start off college online,” Bajari explains. “If I were to apply to a school, paying full tuition for online classes is not something I would like to do. A big part of college is the experiences and independence that comes along with it.”
Bajari is planning to take a gap year or semester to take some time for herself, take a break from school, help pay bills and be with her family. Once she returns to school, Bajari plans to attend community college, potentially in Santa Barbara, to receive her general education and then possibly transfer to another campus.
“It is more affordable that way and will give me more time to figure myself out and I won’t feel as stressed out about a commitment to what I want to do with my life,” Bajari says.
The next few years are largely uncertain, but Carmel High seniors are ready to start the journey.
“This is going to be a really big step,” says soon-to-be New York University freshman Madison Hart. “While it is going to be pretty nerve wracking and scary, I can’t wait to see where my college experience takes me.”