RANDOLPH, NJ--Seniors at Randolph High School found it more challenging than ever to commit to college with confidence this year, given the constraints that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the college selection process. In light of this, members of the Randolph community came together with creative ideas to help ease the college process, and May 1, aka National College Decision Day, became a day of celebration for many of these accomplished seniors. 

“Not being able to visit [campuses] definitely had an impact on the process of deciding where I wanted to go,” said Chelsea Kaden, an RHS senior. “I felt a lot more pressure to do intense research on the school to make up for the inability to visit it. I felt a bit more nervous about my decision, but it’s comforting knowing that most seniors are going through the same process and feeling the same way.”

Most college campuses have been closed since mid-March, leaving high school seniors with no access to campus tours, admitted students’ days, information sessions, or other typical resources that students have had access to in the past to help them make their final enrollment decisions by the deadline. 

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Because of these overwhelming constraints, over 300 colleges across the nation have attempted to lessen the anxiety of the decision-making process for incoming students by extending their enrollment deadlines. Instead of the traditional May 1 deadline, numerous colleges have pushed back the date, with some even going later than June 1. 

Many students supported the decision to extend the enrollment deadlines. “I think it [is] helpful to students if schools extended the deadline,” Kaden commented. “We would have more time to research, make calls to faculty, make calls to students, or just weigh our options.” 

Members of the RHS community also stepped up to help RHS seniors choose colleges during this challenging time. Jen Huey, the college and career counselor at RHS, joined forces with RHS alumna Kathryn Altman (Class of 2019), to create a database of RHI alumni who are currently attending several different colleges and universities. These former Randolph students have made themselves available to answer questions from RHS seniors regarding the alumni’s specific schools and the college decision process in general. ­­

Additionally, RHS English teacher Sarah Townsend organized a National (Virtual) Acceptance Day page on Microsoft Teams, where seniors could post pictures of themselves, starting on May 1, wearing their college gear. This was a virtual alternative to National College Decision Day, when students typically announce their final college choices in person, by wearing their college gear to high school on May 1. 

“I was so proud to see each post and so many people—staff and students alike—reached out to say thank you,” Townsend said. “The best part was that students were able to receive personalized messages from administrators, guidance counselors, teachers, and fellow students, and so many of those messages were so touching and heartfelt. It definitely showed that RHS is still a community despite being physically distant.”

By all accounts, the virtual page was a hit: Students were recognized for their hard work and the constant flow of congratulatory messages gave a much-needed boost to the morale of the RHS community. “It was extremely memorable for the Randolph community,” remarked Lenny Moldavsky, the senior class president. “We all felt like Rams today.”

Now that they have finally committed, RHS seniors have turned their eyes toward the future. “While things will certainly change in society, graduating seniors are going to have a wonderful college experience, and will always have the Randolph community to support them as well,” commented Michael Lonie, an instructional coach and former social studies teacher at RHS. 

Editor's Note: Lucas Girardi and Mikaela Kahana are students at RHS participating in a journalism program