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Prospective college students shouldn't be too worried about COVID-19 affecting admissions

High school can be stressful, particularly as students near the end of their journey and wonder

whether they will find a job, join the military, or attend a college. For those hoping to attend a university, the worry can be whether they will be admitted to a particular school.

COVID-19 has exacerbated this stress. For months, teachers have heard from students and parents worried that restrictions imposed when school buildings closed last spring will make students look less attractive to prospective universities and hinder admission.

They should put that stress to rest. Universities get it. They know what students are going through, and are adjusting their expectations. As Whitworth University reports, they are evaluating students "through a different and definitely more sympathetic lens this year."

This summer I contacted admissions officers at 30 universities to which the students at my high school most frequently applied and asked this question: "Some students and families are concerned that limitations due to COVID-19 will hurt students' chances for admission. What is your response to this concern?"

Every one of them responded with reassurance. Every one. Northwestern University said: "Limitations due to COVID-19 are beyond the student's control; students should not worry as (we) will be understanding of the circumstances." Gonzaga University replied, "We are all aware of and sympathetic towards the disruptions this pandemic has made in students' lives and don't want them to stress out about things outside their control."

The universities recognize the global impact of COVID-19. The University of Arizona said, "Nearly everyone applying will be experiencing these challenges, so please reassure your students that they are in good company!" The University of Colorado responded, "Everyone is in exactly the same situation as you."

Several schools, including Oregon State, Oregon and Washington, said students will be given an opportunity in the formal application process to say in a separate essay how COVID-19 has impacted them.

What might a student say? A student could talk about how COVID-19 has limited them, but several schools said they are interested in learning how students have responded positively to COVID-19. Seattle Pacific University said, "A student will stand out if they can speak to ways they have creatively stayed connected, found ways to serve their community, or still tried to learn outside of the classroom." Willamette University noted, "I hope students and families can worry less about what they might not be able to include on their application and think more about how to maximize whatever unique opportunities do exist right now."

Or perhaps service to fellow students. The University of Colorado reminded, "This is a global pandemic, and many students are working through far bigger things than their activities list for college." The University of Southern California said, "Students disproportionately hurt by COVID-19 are not concerned about school or activities; they're worried about food, health, shelter."

In the words of Colorado State University, "Don't worry about this!" Instead, consider advice from the University of California Berkeley, "To take a deep breath and know that we are all in this together," and from the University of California Los Angeles: "We're all human and we've all been impacted by this pandemic. Focus on taking care of yourself and your family right now…don't worry about that internship you couldn't get this summer. We get it."

Todd Jones is a West Linn resident

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