How the Class of 2020 is Making College Decisions

Pictured: Twins, Sophia Tolli (left), who will be attending Ithaca College, and Emily Tolli (right), who will be attending Chapman University.

What a time to be a senior in high school. With prom, graduation, and all other significant activities that made senior year special being stripped away from the class of 2020, one aspect of the future that every senior continues to look forward to is finally selecting the college they want to attend.

In previous years, May 1st is a monumental day, for high school seniors everywhere. In Sinatra, seniors are encouraged to celebrate their college decision by wearing merchandise from said school.

Clearly, with the coronavirus pandemic resulting in schools closing across the country, this would not be the case. In fact, May 1st became less significant than ever before, with most colleges extending their commitment deadline to June 1st: a truly generous offer, but yet another reminder of the lack of normality the class of 2020 has to face.

For some (myself included), the decision has already been made. Some seniors will be off to schools across the country, while others will stay within the bustling boroughs of New York City.

Some have even shared their acceptances on the official Frank Sinatra School of the Arts college acceptance Instagram page (@fssacollegeannouncements), a sort of commencement given the circumstances. For others, the decision has become much more difficult, with uncertainty piling on top of limited knowledge of the school they will attend.

With college campuses closed as well, touring campuses and “getting a feel” for the school is no longer an option, as seniors will now resort to looking at pictures and videos of campus.

But perhaps the biggest concern from the coronavirus pandemic is making the best decision despite the alternative resources that may or may not be for the better.

Regardless, some FSSA seniors remain hopeful. Sophia Tolli, a senior drama major, explained how the coronavirus had impacted her decision to attend Ithaca College this upcoming fall.

“The college process has been hard and had been very hard even before quarantine,” she said, “But I do feel that being in quarantine affected a lot of senior decisions, especially when it comes to money,” she said. “Schools that families could afford to help pay off before are now too expensive, since so many people have lost their jobs.My family could no longer afford to send me to San Diego,” she added.

The coronavirus has impacted the lives of millions, and its presence has truly rattled Americans. According to, about 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment as businesses and companies across the country are left with no choice but to close their doors. 

As such, this is the main reason behind many colleges extending their deadline to June 1st; that way, students have the opportunity to either get back on their feet and find the money and resources to pay their commitment fee and plan how they will pay their first semester of college. 

Ms. Maglaris, the FSSA scholarship and college counselor, suggests students appeal their financial aid awards. In a virtual Sinatra Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, April 28, she mentioned that due to many families being impacted by the coronavirus and losing the finances they might have once had to pay for school, colleges have begun accepting appeals to financial aid packages.

Despite this, some schools still give financial aid packages that may not always meet the needs of the students. During my college experience, I found that schools such as New York University and Fordham offered little to no financial aid. Granted, the awards received vary per person, many seniors have had to turn down their dream schools simply because the pandemic acts as a gatekeeper, preventing students from being able to afford their school when it might not have been an issue previously. 

On top of it all, some seniors have noted the lack of guidance during these unpredictable times. Emily Hellmann, a senior drama major that will be attending Queens College in the fall, explained that she lacked many resources during the pandemic in terms of college.

“I find it hard to get the information I need to make sure I am ready for my freshman year because when Queens College doesn’t answer my emails, I can’t ask in person due to the quarantine,” she said. “Every other college I was accepted to has emailed me daily about information except for the one I actually want to go to. I find it very hard to get in touch with Queens College.”

In terms of general emails from Queens College, I can attest to the lack of advice for students who were generally accepted, since I will also be attending Queens College in the fall. However, since I will be a part of the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, I can say that the particular program has given more information regarding college admissions and requirements than Queens College alone. In addition, the CUNYfirst portal has been regarded by many applicants as extremely confusing and difficult to navigate; as such, without adequate support from both the college itself and our Sinatra support staff, it becomes rather difficult to understand what next steps a senior has to take.

“I haven’t gotten any help from Sinatra regarding college since quarantine,” Emily added.

However, when asked the same question, Sophia Tolli explained that she did, in fact, receive help from Sinatra.

“My counselors still reach out to me and check up on how the process has gone. They’ve been very supportive and available to me,” she said.

The transition from in-person guidance to online resources is one that has been difficult for most seniors. Some simply don’t know where to begin with the uncertainty of the whole scenario. For others, however, the transition has been smooth. 

As such, while the transition has certainly caused setbacks in getting the full extent of guidance throughout the final stretch of the college admissions process, it should be noted that there are, indeed, resources available. Whether it be via email, text or video conference, Sinatra has attempted to make itself available to each and every student.

In short, each senior has had a different experience with the coronavirus and selecting a college. However, one can rest assured that there are resources out there to help each student make an informed decision.

-by Katelyn Villacres ’20