COVID@College: Panhavoan

By Selin Tukel and Yujia Liao, Posted May 1st, 2021

Video by Yujia Liao

What is your name and year in school?

“My name is Panhavoan, my pronouns are he/him and I am a high school senior from Maryland.”

How has your high school handled classes with COVID?

“My school has been doing virtual learning since the start of the pandemic. Late last year the county sent out a survey asking whether you wanted to return to in-person learning or stay virtual, and right now reopenings are based on that survey. My school has adopted more of a simultaneous model meaning that some students are choosing in-person learning while others are staying virtual but staff members and teachers are providing equal support to them at the same time.”

“I have to consider if it is possible for me to return in person or what virtual learning would look like.”

What stage are you in the process of applying/ attending college?

“Right now I have already applied to colleges and I am already starting to hear back from them. I am planning to hopefully be in person for college this fall. Most likely I will go out of state.”

What has changed in the process of applying to college due to COVID?

“Before we were able to visit colleges but during the whole college application process, we had to rely on going on websites and looking at what the buildings are like and doing a lot more research because we can’t go in person and get a feel of what the campus is like. That has definitely been difficult this year.”

Have you experienced any differences due to COVID with standardized testing?

There were definitely a lot of differences in SAT testing, for one when we were registering it wasn’t even about practicing for the SAT anymore it was more about getting a place to do it. I remember I registered for three different centers in three different counties and they were all canceled. The whole process, we didn’t know if we would be able to do SAT testing. Colleges have made up for this by not requiring SATs anymore but I ended up taking the SAT anyway because I am an immigrant and I wanted to show that my English skills are okay for that college. I ended up taking the SAT in person. I would say that there were safe social distancing protocols, but the biggest difference I noticed was that we had to do the test in our masks and because I wear glasses it would fog up. While practicing SAT tests I had to practice with my mask and glasses on because it was a new thing. 

I took the AP tests last year and I think all of them were virtual, and there were internet difficulties during the test like my internet went off for a second and I was going to cry but luckily it went back on. College Board allowed us to either type it in on the computer or take a picture of it, and some students had trouble taking pictures on their phone and upload them on time and some weren’t able to submit and they had to retake it. There were a lot of technical difficulties that year, but this year they are trying to make up for that with new programs in place that would account for offline no internet access.”

“We still cannot visit those colleges in person. That has definitely been difficult.”

Have you been able to visit campuses?

“My school this year has provided more resources than I think in previous years. In previous years they would have in-person sessions where they would come into classes and talk about those colleges, but this year it’s all virtual and it has been on us. I am glad that my school has provided some resources like Naviance which is a website that has a College Match search engine and we can search up based on criteria. That has helped me look into colleges that I wouldn’t have known, based on that I would go in and look over the website. It is different from previous years because when I look into these websites I have to consider if it is possible for me to return in person or what virtual learning would look like and what they have done for students who are at home right now. These are new criteria that I have to look for in these colleges.”

What has been the most difficult aspect of applying to college during COVID?

I wouldn’t say that there was a big difference because the website is still there and we got a lot of information from that. I would say that it is definitely difficult now because when we are getting college acceptances we have to make the decision and we have like one month to decide where we will go while we still cannot visit those colleges in person. That has definitely been difficult.

“Don’t hesitate to reach out when you need help.”

What would you recommend for high school students going through this process as well?

“For virtual learning in general, I would say number one don’t be afraid to get the support that you need. I know that it is hard for people since it feels like we are stuck in a four-walled room every single day. People have come out with resources and websites and all that to help you out. Don’t hesitate to reach out when you need help. Second, I would say that in terms of college applications its still the same it is just that you have to own the process more, I think that as long as you take the initiative and look deeply into the colleges, question where you will be happy at, I think that is the most important question for me throughout the whole process. That has been guiding and helped me throughout the application process even though I cannot visit those colleges. Take initiative and find out about those colleges as much as possible.”

If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact Selin Tukel ( for more details.”