Student Life

My Last Year of High School Amid a Pandemic

Just a high school senior trying to find peace-of-mind when everything seems so different.

Student Contributor, Shreya Thalvayapati

September 15, 2020

My Last Year of High School Amid a Pandemic
Since the world shutdown in March, I have registered for the SAT three times.
As a freshman in high school, I learned the names of top-tier schools that seemed impossible to get into. As a sophomore, I joined the race at school-club fairs to find extracurriculars I loved. As a junior, I loaded up on AP Classes with the rest of my grade and somehow survived never-ending nights and arduous tests. Now as a senior, I am witnessing a pandemic that not a soul asked for, and I’m currently facing a college admissions process that seems more mysterious than ever. And let me just say: my anxiety has reached a definite peak. It is easy to feel isolated in this process when you are not going to school everyday and are distanced from people who are facing the same struggles. So here are some journal-like entries of me ranting, to help you feel not so alone.

August 10th: The day my SAT got cancelled (again).

Since the world shutdown in March, I have registered for the SAT three times. Each time, I hoped to attain a score that I would feel confident in submitting to colleges. Each time, I received an email from the College Board saying the test had been cancelled.
Somehow I found a way to blame myself for the test centers closing. Self-doubt swarmed my head…I should have registered for earlier dates; I should have practiced more the first time I took the SAT so that I wouldn’t feel the need to take it again; Students with an SAT score have an inherent advantage even at test-optional schools. It took awhile for me to remember that the spring of my junior year is a perfectly reasonable time to take standardized tests, and that I never could have predicted COVID-19 to change the world in a blink of an eye. I registered for the October SAT (naturally), but I am almost 100% sure that I will get yet another upsetting email from the College Board. I’ve long left hopes of taking SAT Subject Tests in the dust. My motivation to study and practice for the SAT has been extinguished because I’d much rather put time into things I am passionate about than studying for a test that is probably never going to take place.

August 21st: The day I was hating on COVID-19 (more than usual).

I have been looking forward to my senior year of high school for a decade. But now, even an in-person high school graduation is not guaranteed. All the things that make this year memorable, (prom, our senior cruise, award ceremonies, and senior breakfasts) may never take place. COVID-19 also took a lot away from my extracurriculars, particularly in regards to my experiences with BPA. BPA, also known as Business Professionals of America, is a career technical service organization (CTSO) that helps prepare high school and college students for the business and tech related careers. After countless hours of researching, writing, and practicing, I managed to place first for both of my events at this year’s BPA states. This meant I qualified for the national conference, which was an opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for five days with a talented team and some close friends. But of course, Corona came along, and BPA nationals were cancelled. A potential national championship, a myriad priceless memories, and the opportunity to represent Massachusetts at the national level as a state officer were gone...just like that.

September 3rd: The day I felt behind.

When I asked friends who were veterans of the college admissions process, their first piece of advice was always to take time when creating my college list. Though I have spent a decent amount of time this summer researching colleges, I still feel nowhere close to finalizing my list. Despite the number of online webinars I have attended, it is difficult for me to picture myself at a university when the most exposure I have had to the institution is through my computer screen.

September 10th: The day I did some reflecting.

To be fair, not everything about these last six months has been utterly terrible. The time I saved from debate tournaments and BPA events getting cancelled I was instead able to spend discovering my passions and charting new paths. After realizing that my classmates knew surprisingly little about politics and government, I spent my time in quarantine launching Sonder, a GenZ-led organization that aims to bridge the partisan gap, and raise awareness on sociopolitical issues. Rather than debating in simulations, I am now able to research and write about real problems for an organization that will (hopefully) one day be fighting on the front lines. None of this would have been possible without the time that COVID-19 bought me. More importantly, I was able to witness the remarkable ways that my community found to come together… Mediocre trivia on BPA game nights brought back bittersweet memories of my team members pacing around a hotel room the day before the presentation, trying to memorize the script we had worked all year on. Letter writing marathons to senior community members reminded me to cherish every moment. Virtual anti-racism conversations inspired me to fight for a better world. Without this pandemic I would have taken granted the moments that make this (strange, strange) world so incredibly beautiful. For that Corona, I guess I should really be thanking you.

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