College Signing Day – Paying it Forward

Nancy’s Notes are reflections, observations, and pontifications of all things admission-related. Nancy is an academic counselor at Santa Fe Christian Schools in Solana Beach, CA and a proud WACAC/NACAC member for over 12 years.


And in the blink of an eye, it is May. 

Last Friday, my colleagues and I celebrated College Signing Day with the Class of 2021. Some of our seniors were on campus while others Zoomed in. My colleagues and I told them the Class of 2021 will be forever etched into our minds as the first, and hopefully only, class to apply to college during the height of a pandemic. 

During our celebration, we reflected upon how far this class has come since the start of their college application process to where they are now. While the Class of 2020 had many important events cancelled in the spring of their senior year, they had at least completed the application season before the pandemic hit. In March 2020, the Class of 2021 was just getting started with their application process. 

All across the country, this particular class was: quarantined, had SAT/ACT exams cancelled on them multiple times, unable to visit colleges, attended school remotely and then navigated school in a hybrid fashion with masks, social distancing, and daily health checks. Some had personal hardships and had family members who were hospitalized or who had succumbed to Covid. The only college reps they met were via Zoom. The number of applications to highly selective schools skyrocketed as a result of test optional or test blind policies, driving selectivity rates even lower. We saw more essays about anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation and helped students work through these issues in greater numbers than before.

As we celebrated, we asked the Class of 2021 if they had some advice for the Class of 2022. Many were happy to share what they’ve learned from this past year’s process. While their comments may not be new information to those of us in high school counseling or college admissions, hearing it directly from them helps me wrap my mind around how to help the Class of 2022 navigate their upcoming college application process. 

Applying Test-Optional:

  • “When your college says they’re test-optional, verify with that school’s admissions officer or your counselor what the average test scores are before you decide to send your scores. Don’t rely on the information you find on Google.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to apply test-optional. All my tests were cancelled. I applied to all of my schools without test scores and was admitted to all of them.”
  • “My test scores were really strong. I submitted them to all my schools, but I don’t think they helped me at all. I was still rejected from the really selective schools.”

Forming a college list:

  • “Keep an open mind about your college list. In the spring of my junior year, I totally thought I was going to apply Early Decision to one school. I had a closed mindset about applying to any other colleges. I ended up visiting a few other colleges and I fell in love with another school. I ended up applying to only two of the schools on my list from junior year.”
  • “Don’t be intimidated if you have a short college list. You don’t need to apply to 20-25 schools. You just have to know what you want and where you’ll be happy.”
  • “If you have a huge prospective list, begin narrowing it down now. If you don’t actually see yourself attending that school, don’t bother applying.”


  • “Get your main Common App essay done over the summer. That will allow you time to focus on your supplements. If not, finishing your essays and supplements will get in the way of everything else you’re doing senior year.”
  • “If you’re having trouble writing your essay, pick a different topic. I spent a month trying to respond to one prompt and I wasn’t getting anywhere. My high school counselor suggested I choose a different topic. When I switched prompts, I was able to write my essay in a day.” 

So congratulations, Class of 2021. We are very proud of you. We began this year in some very dark times and we finished it with hope that vaccines and herd immunity will help us “get back to normal” next school year. While we will certainly cherish our memories with the Class of 2021, we hope to never have to relive the experience again. As Steve Hanson wrote in his April 21 WACAC blog post of Steve’s Scribbles, it is spring and we are all approaching the future with a renewed sense of optimism and hope. The Class of 2021’s success is not only due to their grit, determination, and resilience, but it can also be attributed to their school and local communities rallying around them and supporting them through this difficult time. We are almost at the end of the year and it is with grateful hearts that we look forward to serving the Class of 2022.