How the Pandemic Rattled Students’ College Dreams for Fall

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A student skateboards to campus at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California on August 25, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images)

May 1 is approaching, the deadline for the hundreds of thousands of California high school seniors who applied to college to commit to their chosen schools. But for many, this year's admissions cycle was punishing. The COVID-19 pandemic closed high schools to in-person learning, cancelled standardized tests and pushed campus tours online. Many students gave up on the idea of college, especially those with newfound home responsibilities or financial pressures. At the same time, application volumes ballooned at some of the most popular schools, like UC Berkeley and Harvard, making admissions increasingly competitive. We talk about the changing landscape of college admissions and the experiences of this year’s high school seniors.


Stephanie Contreras-Reyes, student, Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet High School

Audrey Dow, senior vice president, Campaign for College Opportunity

Juan Garcia, senior, Compton Early College High; forthcoming freshman, Brown University

Jacqueline Kamei, high school senior; forthcoming community college student

Jeffrey J. Selingo, author, "Who Gets In & Why: A Year Inside College Admissions," "There is Life After College" and "College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students"