ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Students all around the country have been affected by schools holding virtual classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to high school seniors planning for their life after graduation, counselors say students are overwhelmed by the major changes that have come with the pandemic. Many of them have become discouraged planning for their future, and counselors are trying to support them as best as they can during these unprecedented times.
Debra Chandler, College and Career Readiness Counselor at La Cueva High School describes what the seniors are experiencing as a holding pattern, waiting for things to go back to normal. As APS returned to in-person classes, Chandler said she noticed a small change in the students. “It’s been a very long year. We have a lot of students back on campus and the joy and the excitement for the future is back,” Chandler said.
She said under normal circumstances, there is a progression in the senior year of high school where students see their peers preparing for post-secondary life, which in turn, encourages them to start their own preparations. “We’re seeing our numbers down for a lot of things like college applications, financial aid applications, and things are just slower because we’ve lost that connection,” Chandler said.
Lorraine Chavez, College and Career Readiness Counselor at Manzano High School said students have been through so many unknown possibilities. Many seniors still don’t know what exceptions will be made for them regarding normal college admissions requirements like applications and filling out financial aid forms. ‘There is so much unknown that it made it hard for them to progress with their senior year as they normally would,” Chavez said. “We’ve been chasing down answers, trying to find opportunities, trying to open doors and it seemed like every day, something was changing. A lot of our students shut down.”
Chavez said she’s seen a wide range of students deal with a lot more than their own studies due to the pandemic. Many seniors have to take care of their younger siblings while they try to get their own schoolwork done. Many have to work part-time jobs to help support their families. The result of that though, Chavez said, is many students are reconsidering any kind of studies beyond high school. “Many who are working 30-40 hour jobs now are thinking that this is good money and think they can live off that. But we want to show them and try to direct them back to getting a type of post-secondary education or certificate that could take them to the next level,” Chavez said.
This line of thinking is compounded by the fact that the seniors who graduated in 2020 went off to college but were almost immediately sent home because of COVID-19 closures, Chandler said. “It’s a waiting game, we’re stuck again because we don’t know the answers because the people who are supposed to know are still figuring it out, which we all understand. But it’s hard for a kid to progress again through that process,” Chandler said.
Chandler said while there’s many things still out of their control, something parents can do is encourage their students to continue through the process of filing out applications and admissions. “Make sure they’ve applied, make sure they’ve been admitted because there’s certain paperwork that needs to happen and they might have missed something. Make sure they’ve done their financial aid application. If all of that is done, sign up for orientation. The colleges really will take care of the kids as long as they’re checking their email,” Chandler said.
Chavez said college and career counselors are great resources for students who want to make plans for their post-secondary education. She said the district has also provided virtual resources for parents. Each high school’s website should have a resource page to help guide students on graduation requirement information, career exploration, mental health resources, and more.