Over the last few months, most things that we think we know about the college admissions process have been called into question by the Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing. Under normal circumstances we would be helping students plan activities and experiences that would provide them with opportunities for growth, exploration of their interests, and expression of service. That often took the form of internships, summer jobs, service trips, specialized coursework, and camps. Now, however, all of that is off the table for students.
In the midst of this radically altered landscape it is helpful to re-focus on what the college admissions process is about at its core. Colleges want to know a few things about applicants: how they have grown personally and academically in High School, how they are looking to grow in college, and what contributions they will make to the college community they are applying to. The growth that colleges want to see chronicled in college applications is also the growth that we want to encourage students to take advantage of in their high school years for their own development in addition to their college applications. These are the years for students to figure out what their strengths and interests are, what they want from their college education, and how they see themselves contributing to the world around them. In that context, the loss of external opportunities is inconvenient, yes, but also provides space to explore themselves and their interests in different ways. The Washington Post explored the benefits of a ‘summer of boredom’ on High School students, illustrating the ways in which the time provided by staying home allowed them to re-imagine how they spend their time in a way that is more meaningful to them. The message is a salient one: this summer may be very different, but it can still be meaningful. Make the most of it!