Hey, thanks for the responses so far, and hoping to continue to hear many more.
Definitely grateful to be healthy and well. My heart goes out to any of you who have lost a loved one recently as I can't imagine that pain. The pandemic has impacted many people in different ways and to different degrees.
I would still like to advocate for using winter 2020. While anecdotal and representative of a subset of the population, here are my additional thoughts:
While life comes out at you in unexpected ways, it is a privilege for me to look beyond my tomorrow and have the ability to want to create my own future.
I just find this whole situation as 'the universal is against you'. The reliance on upper year grades is based on my progression through university. I had to work my first few years of university because I worked through high school, and now since no in my family went to university assumed that was the norm and everyone just had to do it. Eventually in my balancing act, my first few years grades came out as average (but not competitive for med). So I had to make the decision to quit these jobs and other commitments and just scrape by because I recognized if I wanted this I needed to devote more of my time to studying/improving skills and office hours (considered quitting varsity, but chose to stay, big opportunity cost). Ultimately, I put up my best academic year and was hoping I could string together another strong year as a fifth year student to be considered a competitive applicant. But now by discrediting the fourth year, ultimately I can't simply ration coming back for a potentially inconsequential fifth year, especially if my OSAP bill continues to grow and I can't help out my family as i'm stuck in school. I hope this decision gets revisited, because based on this system I either give up now, or next year. Not too sure if I could even do a second degree. I am proud of overall application, but in a system that judges so heavily based on GPA as an entry way for consideration, this is a huge roadblock.
The circumstances to which the virus affected students definitely does vary based on level of privilege undoubtedly. Being away at school was my escape from reality, so coming back home was challenging. I arguably worked harder than ever based on my home situation (which was unfortunately in a high risk area and my parents don't fall under the 'work-from-home-demographic' so had to go to their factory jobs which led to quarantine due to contact tracing, but also immense worry of my extended family living in a village on the other side of the world without access to healthcare). Accepting the many ways in which a student's life was flipped upside down and stretched thinner then ever, if they just so happened to have found a way out because they had no other option but to keep putting one foot in front of the other, it's a slap in the face if the school were to say "sorry, you're outta luck here. Maybe next time?". Grades were definitely the last thing to want to think about, but in terms of social mobility it was the only way to propel forward. Do I have to regret not ____ because I chose to be selfish and study instead? If we want to empower certain communities I would say this is a way to do so.
Few schools offer an explanatory option (which is great) as why certain grades are not reflective and should be dropped from consideration. But is it really too much to ask to have grades count?