Picture the high school junior of 2020, the naive one. The one who knew her plan down to the last detail: she will tour colleges in March, get her ACT scores back in April, finish her essays over the summer, submit her applications in August, and have a spring/summer lacrosse season. She had a plan.

That junior is now a senior. In the Age of COVID following a lost spring and summer, she is sitting at her desk envisaging where she will apply to college—will they let her tour in person? Will she receive her ACT scores back in time for her applications? And how to write her dreaded college essays—actually those will be pretty much the same, except she will have to fight the urge to write a pandemic-themed essay. As she ponders this, her parents are questioning why they had another child, a question that becomes that much harder to answer because that rising senior is a twin.

The twins were born in 2003, the youngest of nine children. They came into the world right when the first-born was applying to college. What the eldest brother lacked in brilliance, beauty, athleticism, and character in relation to his youngest siblings, he more than made up for with the fact that he was not applying to college during a pandemic.

The procrastinating brother toured colleges in July, took the SATs in a classroom surrounded by his peers in October, and submitted applications in November. By December, he knew where he would be going to school. Five more children repeated this process in the ensuing years. One can forgive the parents for assuming things would be no different for their youngest.

Students now have to rely on the internet to learn about colleges, knowing that every institution can make itself look great online. Many do not offer in-person tours. Even if they do, prospective students are still missing out on an integral factor of the decision-making process: interacting with the people. With virtually no one on many campuses, it is hard to get a sense of what the college and its people are really like and whether you will fit in.

Not only is it harder for students to make a decision, but it is more difficult for them to distinguish themselves from the rest of the applicant pool. Standardized tests are consistently getting canceled. The essay will count more than ever. Juniors typically learn how to craft a college essay at the end of the year in their English classes. When classes went virtual, due to the inherent limitations imposed by that type of instruction, many students received minimal guidance on a skill that will help decide their future. The 2021 class cannot help but feel lost and confused.

In the closing years of high school, students may slip into a tendency to treat their classmates as competitors, people who could take the college slot that is rightfully theirs. But in 2020, every senior yearns to get back to the crowded classroom full of peers. For now, I guess we have to settle for awkward waves over Zoom calls.

Kathleen McMorris is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with three classmates.