May 1 is known as National College Decision Day.
For many colleges and universities, it's the deadline for first-year applicants to make a commitment.
At Arroyo Grande High School, Ms. Varvel's AVID class helps students with the application process. They also learn study skills and do career research.
These students will be the first in their families to go to college.
"I do believe in myself seeing what I've been able to accomplish," said student Ryan Mucino.
Remote learning has been a challenge for most students during the pandemic, but many of the seniors in Ms. Varvel's class said preparing for college was motivation.
"I struggled a lot mentally and financially and at home, so it kind of brought down my grades. And junior year, I kind of had like a realization, like, if I want to get out of here, then I have to go to college," said Isabela Mejia.
"You know, junior year is the huge year and it really, it's the year that you do all your community service projects and really being online kind of limited the amount of things we could do," said Sofia Reynoso.
"I think my junior year definitely took a toll on like my motivation, but I think coming back senior year and seeing like, oh, it's like time to apply to colleges. I kind of realized like, this is what I want to do," added Daniela Mejia.
"It was just a little unnerving, not knowing how it was going to work and, you know, when we were going to be off and when I could meet with them," said Gail Varvel, AVID teacher.
The return to in-person instruction was welcomed by the students and teachers.
"Not having face-to-face contact with them for like a year and then being able to kind of empower them again," Varvel said.
"The AVID trip to actually go visit the schools like really, really changes your perspective on like how attainable it is to get accepted," Mucino added.
In the Lompoc Unified School District, school officials bring in counselors from local colleges and universities to help students with their applications, financial aid, and scholarships.
"We have a UCSB staff member at Lompoc High School to help particularly with underrepresented groups to be able to go to college, and so the resources are there for them," said Brian Jaramillo, LMUSD Education Services Executive Director. "It's really just making sure that they reach out to the counselors, they're listening to the announcements and they're participating in the stuff that's there for them."
Both schools used in-person as well as virtual materials to hold workshops and connect with students. They sent materials to parents, as well, to help guide them through the college application process.
"One of the counselors was telling me that the nice thing about Zoom was that they could Zoom with an individual student and by screen sharing and sharing computers, the counselor was able to help them through the application process on the computer, and so they were able to get kind of one-on-one assistance with applications if they needed at that level as well," Jaramillo said.
The students in the Arroyo Grande AVID class have received a total of nearly 140 acceptance letters.
"I had one parent that wore a Cal Poly sweatshirt... and he wore it for like a month straight at work just because he was so proud," Varvel said.