Juniors Navigate Through the Virtual World of College Research

As a junior, I have been tasked with the responsibility of researching colleges and studying scholarships and programs with the same rigor as an AP class. To make matters worse, there are no longer any on-campus visits or in-person college fairs to attend, making the process exponentially harder. Thankfully, the world has adapted fast and I visit websites extensively to help with this process. Francis Lewis has also recognized this issue and has been working on creating college workshops and zoom meetings to help juniors with the college research process.

One resource that is highly recommended by counselors and students alike is Naviance.  Naviance is a user friendly website that helps students research and identify colleges that connect with their desired field of study and career path after high school.

“Usually the first line of defense for students, when they are starting their research, would be Naviance,” college counselor Ms. Shaw said. “It keeps track of your data, so it is really good with matching you to different colleges you’re interested in.”

“The most effective way, honestly, [is] just getting started with logging in and seeing it on your own time,” Ms. Shaw added. “I think some students just wait for us in the building to tell them when they have to use it and it gets really overwhelming when you don’t know how to navigate it.”

Francis Lewis juniors have been using Naviance frequently, and many agree it is a great resource for researching colleges. 

“The college research process for me this year has been OK,” junior David Khaimov said. “I have frequently used the Naviance feature to research. I don’t have any official list but I have about 3-4 [colleges] that I have found through Naviance.”

Choosing the right college list is a difficult task, and some Francis Lewis students has found the process a bit overwhelming and confusing to start.

One of the major problems that I have had with this is finding colleges that fit me,” Khaimov said. “I feel like the school could have done a little better introducing certain schools. I feel a bit prepared but still know that I have a bit more to think about.”

Due to remote learning, the college research process has gotten more difficult for juniors as it can be challenging for students to contact and speak with counselors about issues they are facing during the process. Counselors agree that the pandemic has brought juniors a disadvantage this school year.

“For juniors, I am hoping that we are sort of going back into the school, however I know a lot of students are staying remote,” Ms. Shaw said. “You sort of are missing out on the large college fair experience that we usually have.” 

To make up for the lack of in-person support throughout the school year, counselors are holding online workshops. These Zoom meetings are important resources for students, and it is encouraged that every junior attends. 

“So we actually did start with our junior workshops at the beginning of March, where each of the college counselors, myself, Mrs. Ishiki or Mrs. Barahona, held workshops for our own caseloads,” Ms. Shaw said.

“Later on throughout the rest of junior year, we are actually going to be going into English classes to meet with students so that way we can see all of you again. We are going to be holding workshops on specific topics.  Those topics could be anything from CUNY, specific programs like Macaulay Honors and Sophie Davis, to resume building, opportunity programs.”

It has helped a lot because Francis Lewis offers a lot of resources and the guidance counselors are knowledgeable,” junior Joshua Jiang said. 

Although online workshops are an important resource for students, counselors are concerned with students conducting research in their own time as well as concentrating on different parts of the application process. 

 “Right now we are more concerned about you getting together your research for college list, or if your choice is not to go to college at least have different programs you’re interested in for when you graduate from high school, as well as working on your college essay because that is what is going to be sent to all the colleges you apply to,” Ms. Shaw said.

Francis Lewis seniors offered advice to juniors on the college application process. 

“Stay up to date with emails and the application status,” senior Justin Cody said. “You are most likely going to be applying to multiple schools at once and they all have different requirements and meetings that they will notify you about through email so be sure to check your email at the beginning and end of every day.”

Although juniors do not have many pressing deadlines this school year, unless they are applying for a specific scholarship program, Ms. Shaw expressed how important it is for juniors to stay up to date with college research so they are prepared in the Fall when working on college applications. 

“Don’t try to leave any research till the last minute, especially for my juniors who are going to become seniors in the fall,” Ms. Shaw said. “We want to make sure that you have a good research list of colleges by the time you come into school in September. That way it makes your application process so much easier.”  

In the end, the college research journey is up to the student.  The college decision is based on the work students put into the process, especially during college research.

“I always tell my students that academic match and getting into the school isn’t the biggest problem,” Ms. Shaw said, “it’s finding the reason to stay there and finding the motivation to continue through your academic education. A lot of times that comes from the community that you build when you are on campus.”

“Find programs you can get involved in, extracurricular, like diverse student clubs or academic societies or Greek life if your interested in that. Different things that give you a reason to motivate you to continue with your studies and finish.”