Applying to University during the pandemic
Written by: Joana Gonçalves
From: Lisbon, Portugal
Edited by: Luana Mayer
I stared at the blinking cursor, painfully aware that I was right back to where I started. I had been sure that it had been the right link, but now, an hour later, it's starting to feel like this college website doesn't have an end. Every accessible piece of information is somehow irrelevant to a prospective international undergraduate student, and the list of things to do just seems to be getting longer. Fill out the common app and UCAS, write supplemental essays, make activity lists, write personal statements, and find time to do the recommended readings. Now, adding another task to this never-ending list: actually figuring out how the university system works.
It's the summer before my senior year and I have been thinking about university since middle school. I spent years watching college acceptance reaction videos on youtube, researching majors, and preparing for problems I didn't know I was going to face. I worked hard to qualify for the highest level classes only to deal with the imposter syndrome that came with regularly struggling at something. I survived through the existential period that made me realize medicine was no longer for me, and the sleepless nights working on the extracurricular activities I had been so sure would set me apart from everyone else. Then the COVID pandemic, and although there were times when I was less sure I would, I survived that too. But, I wasn't prepared for what would come after. The after which I would be waiting for my second dose of the vaccine while trying to make a decision about my future through a computer screen. Exploring campuses through virtual tours and meeting with department heads on Zoom.
Nevertheless, with everything my year group was going through, it was hard not to be aware of how lucky we were. The pandemic hit the year before we entered the International Baccalaureate and our junior year was spent with the stress of hybrid learning instead of the panic state we saw the seniors go through. We witnessed first hand the consequences of having spent so long at home. We were fortunate, however, having narrowly missed the detrimental consequences the pandemic caused in the years above us.
It can be easy to get caught up with the isolating nature of our problems instead of recognizing the universality of our experience. We are quick to dismiss everything going wrong in our lives as misfortune far from our control instead of taking the damage with stride (and in my opinion, a healthy dose of complaining). I had my entire life planned out, one graduation after another. I was uncomfortable with uncertainty, not realising how important it would be to my life story. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, difficult, and scary; but necessary. My only consolation was that I wasn’t going through it alone. I have a family to read my essays, friends to brainstorm ideas back and forth with, and a strong support system that is committed to seeing me succeed. I felt guilty that there were times in which I forgot this.
Being understanding of your circumstances is a lot easier to do than being understanding of yourself. That is the key, I think, to getting anything done during this pandemic. Understanding that the pressure you feel to go back to how you were pre-COVID, comes largely from yourself.