Incoming freshmen struggle to navigate application, commitment process online

Media Credit: Diana Crompton | Photographer

Incoming freshman Annie McFee said GW's test-optional application helped her decide to apply after her SAT was canceled last May.

With college placement tests canceled and campus tours shut down across the country, incoming freshmen said GW’s frequent communication and virtual programs for potential students contributed to their choice to commit to GW.

Incoming freshmen struggled to make their college decisions with guidance and resources restricted to virtual tours and information sessions that kept students separated from the campuses they’d hoped to tour. More than half a dozen incoming students said GW’s efforts to engage prospective students with online events helped them gather information during a process that was “isolated” without easy access to school counselors or admissions officers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Eleanor Fitzgerald, an incoming freshman majoring in international affairs, said her visit to GW last February played a large role in helping her decide where to attend, since many other schools shut down their tours over safety concerns during the pandemic. She said her visit to campus helped her visualize herself as a student and imagine life at GW instead of American and Fordham universities, the other schools she was considering.

“It was just so hard for me to visualize myself at the two schools, American and Fordham, that I hadn’t visited,” she said. “So that was really what pushed me more in the GW direction was how I felt on campus, the stories I heard on campus and just being able to refer back to how I felt at GW.”

She said frequent communication with the University made the idea of committing seem more favorable, especially since she could not meet with staff or get informed about GW in person. 

“GW was in constant communication with me, whether that be through email or through letters, acceptance letters, financial situation letters, packets about what the school was like,” Fitzgerald said. “That was something that made me look more favorably on GW compared to other schools. I felt like they were actively making an effort to inform me about the school.” 

Annie McFee, a rising freshman majoring in journalism and mass communication, said her involvement in the Your GW program, an online mentorship program offered to high school seniors interested in applying to GW, helped her decide to commit.

The program was adapted to a remote environment for the first time this year, and students received advice about essay writing and how to decide between early action and regular decision applications, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions website.

“There were a bunch of mentorship meetings about the application process and information about GW, so I got a lot of my information about GW from that,” she said. 

McFee said her decision-making process became a lot easier after visiting GW last January because she could compare the campuses of her top three schools – GW, American University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill – while using first-hand experience. 

“It definitely did make the process easier that I had been able to tour before the pandemic started,” she said.  

McFee said GW’s test-optional application also aided her decision to apply after her SAT was canceled last May.

“I felt like me not being able to take the SAT wasn’t going to negatively affect my chances,” she said. “I did submit my ACT scores, I was able to take that in February. So it was nice to have the option because I did end up submitting some of those.”

Diego Carradero, an incoming freshman living in Puerto Rico, said the pandemic caused added stress to his application and decision because he lost easy access to his counselors who could help him complete applications. He said he had to do independent research to learn about schools and the application process, leading to more stress. 

“Very, very stressful because I am in Puerto Rico, and specifically from my school, barely anyone decides to apply to U.S. universities,” he said. “So not only that worked in the other fact that I couldn’t get the help or the direct treatment from my counselor and that also definitely caused even more stress.”

Carradero said he couldn’t visit any of the colleges that he applied to because of COVID-19 restrictions and financial strains on his family that were also brought on by the pandemic. 

“When COVID hit we saw how the plans had to be changed because we also came into a lot more spending for the different things like wipes and different sorts of those materials to keep us safe, and also while my mom couldn’t be working so much,” he said. “So that also trickled in, and I think overall it was just harder.” 

He said he was relieved to utilize GW’s test-optional policy since he couldn’t retake his scheduled SAT in March and was planning on taking it multiple times to improve his score. He said he chose against submitting his SAT scores because even though he was a good candidate, he did not have the opportunity to retake the exam. 

“I think it did help to not have to submit the scores because I do think that they were obligated to look more at my profile and my grades,” he said. “Because I feel that even though I wasn’t that good in the SAT, I still have good grades overall in my school.” 

Carradero said he is excited to take advantage of internship and research opportunities and meet professors and other students once he is able to be on campus at GW for the first time. 

“I am overall just really excited because it’s a whole new world for me,” he said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.