Applying to College During a Pandemic: 4 Tips for Parents of College-Bound Children

Applying to College During a Pandemic: 4 Tips for Parents of College-Bound Children 

Make the college application process a little less stressful in 2021.

close up of horse eyes and ears at sunset (Credit: Paige Garrison)

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Preparing for and applying to college is hard enough during “normal times," let alone during a pandemic. Check out these four tips from Stephanie D’Souza of D’Souza College Consulting, to make the application process a little less stressful during these unprecedented times.  

Paying for college is another stressor so make sure you or your student apply for an American Quarter Horse Foundation scholarship! If you are looking to pursue your equine passions through your degree plan or by competing on an equestrian team, or if you’re looking to get a degree in an unrelated field, check out the amazing scholarships available through the American Quarter Horse Foundation.  

1. Attend Virtual Sessions

One of the best ways to gather information about colleges is to schedule an on-campus tour and step into the life of an actual student. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has cancelled many opportunities for in-person visits. Don't fret! Schools have adapted to this new “normal” by offering a plethora of virtual opportunities for students to learn more about their college of interest. Daily information sessions, virtual tours and live chats are now being utilized by students and families across the country.  

Sign up for as many of these learning opportunities as you can and explore colleges and universities from the comfort of your own home. Connect with current students and ask them questions about their experience at the school. Participation in these types of events, even though they are virtual, will be used by some schools to demonstrate your level of interest – important stuff as you move through the application process! 

2. Connect with Schools Through Social Media and Mailing Lists

Schools are constantly changing deadlines and application requirements from year to year. Some have pushed deadlines back because of COVID-19, while others have now moved to a test-optional policy for applications. For more information on which schools have adopted a test-optional policy, check out  

One of the best ways to stay up to date with college announcements is to sign up for a school’s mailing list and follow them through social media (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook). Nothing is more exciting these days than to see a tweet announcing recent acceptances and thousands of proud seniors posting #accepted.

3. Demonstrate What You Have Done During Your Time at Home

Sports seasons cancelled? Extracurricular activities put on hold? Fewer AQHA shows to attend? Availability to internships or work cut short? These are all situations high school students have recently found themselves navigating during the pandemic. It is important to remember that you and your student are not alone – students across the country are wondering how to best reflect what they have been doing when they feel like they haven’t really been doing that much of anything (outside of online schooling).  

Colleges know that this has been an unprecedented time for everyone. Instead of focusing on what you or your student has missed during COVID-19, encourage them to use their activity list, essay or interview opportunity to talk about what they have done. Highlight creative ways you or your student adapted to life’s restrictions – helping younger siblings or older family members, connecting with the needs of the community or learning to Zoom with someone who is feeling isolated.  

4. Manage Stress and Check in With Your Student’s Mental Health:

The college application process is an exciting time of exploration, but it can also be a time of stress overload. Students may begin to question their self worth while comparing themselves to peers. They might also feel that they are not living up to their parents’ expectations or standards of excellence.  

This is an excellent opportunity for parents to put things into perspective for their students. Sure, it is an important time for students to meet deadlines and work hard on their applications. However, it is also a delicate period during which parents should reinforce their unconditional love and support. Recognize that not all students wear their stress on the outside. Daily “check-ins” not related to college applications are beneficial. Try to schedule a day during the week as your “college talk day.” This will be the day that you and your student discuss colleges and applications – all other days should be focused on family time. This will help alleviate any possible tension around the house and shift the mood to a more encouraging environment.  

Book Recommendations for Parents

  • Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions (Selingo, 2020) 
  • Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be (Bruni, 2015) 

About Stephanie D'Souza, MA  

D'Souza College Consulting  

(202) 834-7025