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  • amyalysaglynn

Yup... It's Weird Out There (Again...)

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

We're still living in a high-volatility landscape. At the rate things are going, it's anyone's guess what the 21-22 college admissions scene will look like, but yes, if you currently have a rising 12th grader, their "big year" for academics and extracurriculars was indeed a COVID casualty. This can be good or bad news depending on your student, but at least the shakeup affected everyone pretty equally in 2020. For those applying to college in fall '21, things might be even harder to quantify because there was so much state-to-state variation in how locked down people have been (Class of 2022 graduates in California have had a pretty different junior year than students in, say, Texas).

As this all plays out, it's worth being conscious of a couple of things:

  1. The world is not ending right now. Please remind your student of this, frequently. I'm serious. Motivation is through the floor with this generation and we have to shoulder some of the blame for fearmongering (which, yes, is still a thing even when the fear has basis in reality). Between the lockdown and the political and social upheaval and the unemployment numbers and the climate change messaging, a lot of teens are falling into spirals of anxiety, depression, apathy or all of the above. There is still a point to "trying." They need to stay convinced of that.

  2. Normally, this phase of late adolescence is about individuating, finding your voice and your tribe. Imagine you're your 11th grade self and you've been locked in the house with YOUR parents for over a year, and you've just heard the word "unprecedented" ooze from a pundit's mouth for the 300th time today. You'd be homicidal. Admit it. Give these young people some AIR! No one "needs" to work with a hired college counselor starting in 8th grade, but having a neutral third party to talk to about the whole "personal expression" journey can be very cathartic. I can take flak from your teen all day long! Bring it, o surly defensive pent-up young adult! I don't care! I see straight through that hoohah (unless it's my own kids; then I am as hosed as anyone else).

For many, maybe most, students I've worked with, college essays are the first time they have ever been asked to write a personal statement, and they are totally terrified of it. (Many have been told never to use the word "I" in an English paper and are blown away to discover that for this, they have to!)

So, if you're feeling frustrated (furious? desperate?) because your rising senior is caught in COVID crossfire and their most important transcript year turned into an Insane Clown Posse concert? I feel ya. Try to see opportunity in it: I wouldn't say "the playing field has been leveled." But I would say "Take advantage of the uncertainty and assume you have options you didn't even know you had." So many of my early-season students have come to first meetings explaining how keenly aware they are that with a mere 4.1 GPA and no corporate sponsorships for athletics, they have "no chance" at getting into Awesomesocks University, but.... Can we please nip that in the bud for a hot sec? No one knows where they will and won't get in to college. We can make decently educated guesses, like "If a school's acceptance rate is 3%, it's basically lottery-ticket odds for ANYONE who applies, so assume you won't get in." But you know what? Even though not many people win the lottery, the people who do have one thing in common: they bought a ticket. Perhaps this is a good year to flip your thinking to "Awesomesocks U accepts 3% of applicants: what do I have to lose?"

What I'm saying is: model optimism. It might not change the outcome, but then again, it might. And it will 100% make the process less irritating than relentless pessimism will. Rejection letters do not create dark matter–in the digital age they don't even create recycling. Encourage your student to remain available for pleasant surprises. Uncertainty is not optional for anyone, but suffering over it it is.

If your college applicant could use a shot in the arm that's more than a vaccination, reach out.

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