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Herald Inside Long Island hosts applying to college amid pandemic webinar

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For the purpose of reducing Long Islanders' stress about applying to college during the pandemic, Herald Inside LI held a webinar sponsored by Molloy College, on November 19, which was designed to guide high schoolers and their families as the time to apply to college approaches.

This year, due to the pandemic causing test cancellations, many students have gone "test-optional" and have not taken the SAT or ACT exams. The panelists on the webinar said that many colleges are now looking beyond transcripts to evaluate extra curricular activities and number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes a student took. There is now more emphasis on admissions essays to decide if a student is the right fit for their colleges. 

“At Molloy College, we have a holistic approach when evaluating students for entry into the college, so we always look at more than just the academic average and the test scores that appeared on the students transcript and on their file and we dig a little deeper,” said Marguerite Lane, the assistant vice president for enrollment management at Molloy College. “We understand that many high school students were thrown into remote learning because of the pandemic, and that they might not have the best academic test scores, so we look at the entire picture of a student to see if the student is a good fit for Molloy to help them develop in their academics and career.”

Frank Muzio, the director of guidance for the Wantagh Union Free School District, said that his school district has been working on common app workshops with high school students and that having students apply to both local and distant colleges is beneficial to them.   

“Students have adapted to this new normal in different ways and at different paces and we want to make sure that all students have an application plan,” he said. “This past year, we really had to do a lot of individual counseling to meet students and families where they are and to meet a wide spectrum of needs.”

The assistant principal of school counseling and wellness at Calhoun High school in the Bellmore and Merrick school district, Anthony DeMartinis, said that during the winter of last year, due to the pandemic, counselors had to pivot to using Zoom and Google Classroom to keep in touch with children and to meet with parents about the college application process.  

 “We are in a Covid world right now and students are concerned about if that is going to affect the list of schools that they apply to or if  they need to think about local schools even though they might have been planning on going away for school and they are also concerned about how their families should plan financially for the decision making process,” DeMartinis said. “SAT and ACT scores are ingrained in our psyche, so it’s shocking for many kids that we no longer have to submit them. However, we encourage students to submit SAT and ACT scores and if they go test optional their college essays should be exceptional.”

 Many of the panelists in the webinar also agreed that the topics that students choose for their college admission essays play a major role in their chances of getting accepted into their desired schools. 

“We are trying to steer kids away from choosing COVID-19 or pandemic related stories for their college admissions essays because many people will write stories like that,” Muzio said. “However, if a student's pandemic story demonstrates exceptional strength then we will encourage them to write about it.”  

In the past year, the owner of Standout College Prep, Bethany Goldszer, said she has noticed a huge difference in the college admissions essays that students have submitted to various colleges because of the stories students are telling about current events in the world.  

“Kids on Long Island have a habit of being spoiled and entitled, but the college admissions essays have changed a lot to topics such as, sexuality, gender, race issues, COVID-19 related stories and more,” said Goldszer who often serves as a liaison between parents and high school counselors and parents and colleges with Standout College Prep. “I think in previous years, students would have been afraid to discuss those topics, but now they talk about it. Kids are braver.”

“I’ve noticed that students have put themselves out there more and have been more vulnerable in their college admissions essays---whether it’s about COVID-19 or about social justice,” agreed Lane.

Panelists also said they are encouraging students to fill out FAFSA forms, while aiming to decrease the anxiety students might be experiencing from applying to college during a pandemic.  

“We are trying to encourage kids to enjoy school,” DeMartinis said. “But, at the same time, we want them to know that they can get through the college application process.” 

To view a recording of this webinar and to register for future ones, visit liherald.com/insideli.

Herald Inside LI is a weekly webinar series. The next episode is Thursday, December 3 at 10am, and panelists will discuss 5G; what it is and how it affects the Long Island community.