MISSOULA — It’s that time of year with high school seniors checking the mail for those college acceptance letters.
But this year, you may notice more students opting to stay in Montana due to the uncertainties of the pandemic.
“It’s been quite bizarre,” observed Hamilton High School senior Katee Kostecki.
“Definitely not what I imagined,” added classmate Bella Sidoruk.
“Inconsistent, I think is a good word. It’s been a lot of...things are finally going right, and then you get quarantined for two weeks,” fellow senior Jonah O’Connor said.
A senior year full of school dances, ball games, band concerts and fun scaled back or stripped away because of COVID-19.
“I do theater, so I've had all this waiting like oh yeah they're like your last show in high school like,” O’Connor said. “We're probably not even going to get to do that.
But with the possibility of college, and a fresh start not too far off, these Hamilton seniors are focusing on the future.
“I started with a broad pick of what I wanted, but I’ve narrowed it down to Montana Western in Dillon,” Kostecki told MTN News.
She isn’t staying close to home because of COVID-19 but Kostecki admits that the proximity to family couldn’t hurt.
“Now with COVID having a lot of uncertainties and having a lot of new rules that you have to follow,” she said. “It's just a lot easier to stay closer to home where you have that support system for you.”
O’Connor will stay in-state as well to study theater education at the University of Montana.
For him, an out-of-state school -- no matter how enticing -- isn’t worth the cost, especially if the pandemic doesn’t lighten up.
“I don't think it would be worth it to go to somewhere in any other state and end up sitting in my dorm room making no new friends,” O’Connor said. “If I have to sit in a dorm room making no new friends, I'd rather do it for half the cost.”
The Hamilton seniors say most of their classmates are staying in-state but Sidoruk is looking in the opposite direction -- and she’s one of the few.
“So, I applied to actually 20 schools on the dot 19 out of state and MSU,” Sidoruk said.
She came to Montana from New York, so even though the pandemic weighs heavy on her mind change is what she knows -- and it’s much needed after this tumultuous year.
“I just want to change. I've been here for a while and it's just...I would really like to go do something new now after being here,” Sidoruk concluded.
National College Decision Day is May 1, so those students still have some time to solidify their plans and see how the pandemic pans out in the spring.
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