Despite fears, applications to college roll in

Only one senior at Stuyvesant High School — located four blocks north of what used to be the World Trade Center — has told counselor Patricia Cleary that she is looking for a nearby college so she can travel by car.

But that comes from a lifelong fear of flying, not the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Cleary said.

Stuyvesant students lost loved ones in the World Trade Center, and were uprooted from their school for two weeks while it served as a temporary triage center. Even amid all the chaos, Cleary said college application patterns have remained constant.

“Sept. 11 affected students, but they are persisting and going about normal life,” Cleary said.

Just as students at Stuyvesant trudge forward, so too do other seniors: completing applications, contemplating careers and thinking about their futures. For a brief period after the events of Sept. 11, though, this pattern came to a halt for seniors in and near New York City, and they lost some key days in the college application process.

“We are aware of the issues these kids are dealing with,” said Richard Shaw, dean of undergraduate admissions. “We know they have been through a lot.”

While Shaw said he expects students to get their applications in on time, he said his office will be flexible with deadlines if necessary.

Paul Thurman, chair of the guidance department at Commack High School in New York state, said he doubts his students will need to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Kids are on top of everything now,” he said, as his office overflowed with students. “It’s worse than ever here, but in a good way.”

Thurman said his school is probably seeing more applications this year than ever before, but he said this has come somewhat suddenly.

For a while after Sept. 11, Thurman said seniors were not optimistic.

“They initially responded [to the attacks] with great seriousness and a great silence,” Thurman said. “There was a lack of laughter in this building.”

Forty miles from New York City, many parents of Commack students worked in and around the World Trade Center. While Thurman said no students had lost immediate family members on Sept. 11, students were still close enough to feel the effects of the attacks.

Several days after Sept. 11, Thurman said he tried to talk to a classroom full of seniors about college, but they looked serious and did not want to listen.

“It was almost as if they were saying to me, ‘how can we be talking about this right now, we don’t know what tomorrow holds,’” Thurman said.

But he said the students have not surrendered.

Shaw agreed, and he said his office already has seen some application essays that describe how students have coped with the terrorist attacks and expects to see more.

While some major mail distribution centers have been shut down because of anthrax scares, Shaw said it is too early to know if this will affect how quickly his office receives students’ applications.

As a major mail handling organization, Shaw said the admissions office has learned anthrax safety procedures. He said the office will be careful, but it will also go on with business as usual.

Shaw said potential problems with the postal system presents additional incentive to announce admissions decisions online, which Yale will do for the first time this year.

Anthrax scares and the Sept. 11 attacks do not seem to be decreasing the number of applications or the enthusiasm of future applicants.

Registration for the PSAT administered last week at Commack High School was up 100 students from the previous year, Thurman said.

Doug Collins, head of the guidance department at Syosset High School, 30 minutes from New York City, said admissions patterns look the same so far but it is hard to tell whether the attacks will affect matriculation decisions.

“I get the feeling people are taking a kind of wait-and-see approach,” Collins said.

Shaw agreed.

He said while he does not expect application patterns to be greatly altered by the attacks, the decisions students make might be affected.

But Shaw said he thinks prospective students will ultimately be drawn toward, not away from, Yale’s city setting.

“It’s an urban environment, but it’s a little off-beat, which is attractive,” he said.

As the country deals with the aftereffects of the worst terrorist attack in American history, counselors said students will continue to place importance on the college admissions process.

“Students think that they can contribute positively to this crisis situation by doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing,” Thurman said. ” And that’s getting their applications done and planning for the future.”

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