Much has been said about the many ways Covid-19 impacted our daily lives, but for the Class of 2021, the pandemic threw one rite of passage completely off course: the college admissions process.
Here at The Hun School, the process begins as early as ninth grade and kicks into high gear during junior and senior years. For the Class of 2021, the typical process—taking SATs, visiting college campuses, and meeting admissions officers in person—was completely disrupted. The Hun School’s College Counseling department is accustomed to tending to anxious students and parents concerned about the future, but this year was uncharted territory with rapidly changing rules and plenty of misinformation.
“In an effort to be one step ahead of it all, we did a lot to educate ourselves this year,” explains Davirah Timm-Dinkins, associate director of college counseling. The team threw themselves into professional development, attending hours of Zoom information sessions about the evolving landscape. The many hours they logged were behind the scenes, but it was an effort that paid off for their advisees. “We were able to navigate those conversations better because of it,” says Mrs. Timm-Dinkins.
Since college campus visits were verboten, the college counseling team pivoted by doubling down on virtual programming. “We offered additional programming this year, ranging from affinity groups (women’s colleges, HBCUs, and LGBTQ+-friendly campuses) to tapping our colleagues in college admissions offices for virtual information sessions,” explains Kathy Bank, associate director of college counseling. “We used our resources to help the students learn more about schools,” she says.
The challenges were many, but Gregg Murray, associate director of college counseling, still discovered a silver lining. “Students had to research schools more this year and not just rely on the beauty of the campus,” he says. “This year’s seniors knew more about the colleges they were applying to,” Mr. Murray adds.
While the robust programming and virtual information sessions with college admissions counselors from around the world are likely here to stay, there were several necessary pivots that many would like to leave in 2021. “Virtual submissions!” says Mrs. Timm-Dinkins. Hun students take part in a submission meeting with their counselors, typically sitting side-by-side as they prepare their applications and hit the send button. This year, that took place over Zoom.
Despite the challenges, Zoom allowed us to pivot seamlessly and play to our strength—getting to know our students intimately," says Radha Mishra, director of college counseling. Although, that personal connection, and what Mrs. Mishra calls “accidental counseling,” when you run into a student in the hallway or Dining Hall, is what the team missed most this year. Still, unexpected moments enlivened their days. “I was on Zoom with one of my students abroad and her grandmother walked into the room with a bowl of fresh fruit,” says Mrs. Mishra. “That never would have happened before. It was very endearing,”