For this year’s high school seniors applying to college, the pandemic created a new paradox of choice: They could barely visit schools in person, but the opportunities for virtual tours were endless, in some ways making decisions more difficult. Touring a university 30 miles away required the same effort as checking out one 1,000 miles away.
To Samantha Campana-Gladstone ’15, these limitations necessitated a different approach: one that was more intellectual than emotional. She started off with a long list of 45 schools and attended various tours and info sessions. Instead of “going off the gut feeling you get when you see the school and run into people on campus, my decision ended up being based on research and talking directly to students and professors.” She did have the opportunity to participate in four campus tours, too.
For Campana-Gladstone, the school’s response to COVID-19 factored into her decision making as well. “For me, universities’ COVID responses were indicative of the nature of the relationship between the administration and the student body at that school,” said Campana-Gladstone. “Whenever I got the chance to speak to a current student at a college I was interested in, I would ask them if they were satisfied by their school’s COVID-19 management and overall response.”
That process produced a short list (though not so short) of 15 applications and culminated in her decision to enroll in a dual program with Columbia University and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. She will be studying political science at Columbia and European studies – a unit comprised of politics, language, and European history – at Trinity.
Samuel Schuur ’15 has not yet set foot on the campus of the school he’ll be attending: University of Chicago. Although he is taking a gap year, he expects to make up for lost time this year and plan a visit. Schuur applied to 12 schools, but said his choice came down to Chicago, where he has a few friends, and a small engineering school.
“I like engineering a lot, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to focus on it full-time,” explained Samuel. “That other school didn’t have many other programs I was interested in, so instead, I am excited about studying math at Chicago.”
Samuel’s gap year will be spent working at a local startup, focusing on manufacturing methods for electric motors and transformers to make them more efficient; continuing some projects he worked on while interning at MIT the previous two summers; and also enjoying some climbing and skiing in his free time. His gap year was also motivated in part by COVID-19.
“The pandemic played a little into my planning a gap year,” he said. “If we did end up having another surge of cases in the fall, I would much rather be working than trying to do remote learning again.”
We checked in with other alumni, who recently graduated from high school. Here’s where they will be attending college: Sana Bhakoo (Colorado College), Jacqueline Braselton (Southern Methodist University), Melina Haskel (Hamilton College) Justin Haskel (Lafayette College), May Lehrer Seller (Sarah Lawrence), Henry Berlin (Fordham University at Lincoln Center) Leda Kahn (University of Vermont), Lev Lysyj (Indiana University), Aidan MacGowan (Northeastern University) Samuel Schuur (The University of Chicago), Peter Weinberg (University of Michigan), Samantha Campana-Gladstone (Columbia University and Trinity College Dublin), Annabel Diedrich (University of St. Gallen in Switzerland), Ava Ledes (Pitzer College), Victoria Semmelhack (Carleton College), Naomi Sladkus (Washington University), Darius Tirgan (University of Rochester).