On tonight's In It Together, we explored how the pandemic is impacting those high schoolers who are planning to — or in the middle of — applying to college.

We heard from two school counselors who are currently helping their students navigate the process.

Melanie Banks is a college and career counselor at Somerville High School. Somerville High is in remote learning right now, which means Banks is spending the majority of her day in one on one virtual meetings with students navigating the application process. Banks says while it's nice to see her students, she knows the struggles of applying to college are amplified for some members of the school community.

"The college process doesn't look the same this year as it has in the past," said Banks. "With the pandemic, a lot of the students who are most impacted are our first generation students, our low income students, our students of color. And so they need a lot of support during the college admissions process in general, and so with the pandemic, I'm seeing an increase in that."

Banks says she's also seeing more stress and anxiety among students going through the application process, particularly when it comes to taking standardized tests typically required to apply.

"When it comes to the SATs and the ACTs, that's still a really big concern for students, causing them a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, even though colleges have choosen to go test optional," said Banks. "There's this sense though, that since it's been a part of the process, it's been a part of the college admissions process for years ... a lot of students don't believe it. They think they are going to be at a disadvantage within the college process."

Eric Schiff, a guidance counselor at Brookline High School, says his students are also feeling stressed and anxious about the college process.

"The stress is always the unknown and this year, there's even more unknowns than in past years," said Schiff. "And it's not just the unknown about what a GPA would look like in normal years versus last year; the SAT test, whether students could access them, whether schools are counting them, how much they're counting them. But it's also the, once you're 'done' with the process, what the unknowns are."

Schiff said his school is in a hybrid learning model. He said one of the hardest parts of remote learning is not having that every day interactions with students, especially during a process like applying to college.

"The hard part about what we do is when students disengage, it's very hard to re-engage them," said Schiff. "If they're in the building, we have the [physical] presence we can use to cajole, motivate, coerce, whatever you wanna call it, and that's gone ... It's been tough, it's been tough. As much as during a normal school year you can't save every student, I think it's been exponentionally harder in the pandemic. And as counselors and support staff, when we're not able to do that, it's disheartening."

We ended tonight's show on a conversation with someone who has already navigated the college application process.

Boston University junior Oliver Pour is BU's undergraduate student body president. He says he is taking classes both in person and over zoom. He added while the pandemic has forced everyone to physically distance, students are still meeting and getting to know each other safely.

"This engagement and involvement has not disappeared, it's actually increased," said Pour.


Melanie Banks - 1:54
Eric Schiff - 17:15
Oliver Pour - 31:15