Pandemic trends threaten to widen the wealth divide in college admissions

Aya Hamza’s academic and extracurricular record at Coral Gables Senior High School near Miami should have made her path to college relatively effortless.

Instead, the process brought her to tears.

The crying came when the 17-year-old was trying to make sense, on her own, of the complex form required to apply for the financial aid she needed as the first in her low-income family to go to college.

It was one of many challenges, exacerbated by the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, that are inordinately affecting college applicants like Hamza.

Her appointments to take the SAT college entrance exam were canceled four times, until she finally decided to skip it. Her parents couldn’t help much. Her guidance counselor — one of nine in her school, for 3,000 students — was busy dealing with the challenges of remote learning; even when the counselor had time to answer questions, Hamza could communicate with her only by email, text or, occasionally, on FaceTime.