There is uncertainty everywhere one looks. Colleges are worried that they won't fill their freshman class as the economy forces families to make tough choices. The College Board and ACT are watching with alarm as college after college announce new test optional policies. Test prep companies wonder if their entire industry will disappear. Students attempt to select colleges without having visited them. Everything is in flux but because each group needs the other, solutions will be found, students enrolled, and testing, in some form, will continue.
We are all adjusting to an unprecedented situation, and it will take time to see how different aspects of our lives will be affected. However, let me reassure all students who are worrying about testing, college tours, and summer activities that everyone is in the same boat and expectations will be adjusted accordingly. Every hour I get a new update on how colleges are changing requirements, for example, MIT just announced it will no longer consider subject tests.
Also for students who are unable to visit colleges, schools are offering new venues for learning about their campuses. Please check the admissions page of every college you are considering for virtual tours, workshops, and outreach from admissions staff.
If all summer activities are cancelled, an online course from your local community college is always a great option. There may also be new ways to give back to your community, such as getting groceries for an elderly neighbor. You are an incredibly creative group and use technology brilliantly. So use your talents to think of new ways to learn, to help others, and to discover more about yourself. The best piece of philosophy I have ever heard was said to me by an online sales associate . "What is, is" she told me. We have to accept this new reality, we do not need to be damaged by it. However it is perfectly natural to mourn what you have lost. Here is a lovely letter from a high school teacher commiserating with today's seniors and all they will miss this year:
"Dear High School Senior,
On Friday afternoon a few seniors came into my classroom after the last bell rang. They were concerned about prom and their senior trip. It broke my teacher heart to listen. As you’re reading this, you most likely have similar concerns.
This is supposed to be your year. The year for your senior prom, sporting events, cheer competitions, senior trips, clubs, and the rest of what senior year has to offer. You were supposed to be the captain of that team, the officer of that club, or that student who wanted to be with their friends one last year before venturing into the unknown. This was THE year that your entire schooling was building up to. But it was robbed from you because of this global pandemic.
Let’s be abundantly clear – you were robbed, and it’s unfair. If you’re upset, then you should embrace those feelings. Commiserate with one another. Some folks will downplay the situation because they won’t know what it feels like to have their senior year stripped at the last moment.
I, for one, will not downplay it as it happened to me. Hurricane Katrina devastated my community when I was a high school senior. I remember leaving my school on a Friday afternoon with my buddies only to never return to that school. I was supposed to be the captain of my soccer team, go to prom with my longtime crush, and finish the year with my lifelong friends. But it was all canceled. Instead, I stayed in a shelter and finished my high school in a different state. It was tough, and I had to find solace in places I never envisioned. It was hard, but we made it through. And I’m reliving that pain as I think of your disruption to your senior year.
Most do not need to experience Katrina to know that this is tough on you. Those of us who work in schools do so because we care above all else. That caring does not stop once you leave those school walls. In situations like these, we worry more about you. There is a lot of uncertainty, but rest assured, districts across the nation are working in creative ways, from potentially abbreviated school years to organizing social events when this subsides, to make this situation the best they possibly can for you. Some educators are working endlessly to transfer to virtual learning and accompany those without the internet. Administrators are working to get those meals together for those who need them. We are all in crisis mode but know that we are all doing everything we can to help during this tumultuous time. You are not forgotten. We are thinking about you. We are here for you. We care.
There’s nothing I, or anyone, can say to make up for that time you are losing in what is supposed to be one of the best years of your life.
But I can offer some encouragement. Right now, you have the power to make the most out of this unfortunate situation. If a decade of teaching has taught me anything, it’s that people your age are resilient and innovative.
Your generation can navigate multiple worlds and bounce between physical and digital spaces with ease. You are part of the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, and you embrace those differences in ways adults seem to struggle. You courageously put yourselves out there for the world to see and criticize. You push boundaries and challenge norms. You find ingenious ways to compensate for any gaps you may have accrued without the help of educators, whether it’s through Khan Academy or a sibling. It’s a small wonder why “post-Millennials are on track to become the most well-educated generation yet.”
I can also offer some advice. Help one another and your family. They need you. Do your grandparents or your eldery neighbors need groceries? Offer support. Some teachers may even need your help as many try to transition to online learning. We need you. Utilize your tech savvy ways to bring yourselves closer together. Practice “social distancing,” or physical distancing, but stay as social as ever. FaceTime. Text. Tweet. Snapchat. Make Tik Tok videos (I don’t know if that’s still a thing so don’t laugh if I’m already out of date). Use these platforms to connect and uplift.
Binge Netflix and Disney+. Make memes. Exercise. Read books – maybe even those boring ones your English teachers were stoked for you to read. Or just read manga. Read something! Reach out to those friends you know don’t have internet access. Call and check up on ‘em. Listen to podcasts. Make a podcast. Start a hobby. Journal for posterity. You’re living through history. Your bold reaction to this is going to make history.
Lastly, I can offer some support. You may not know me, but I feel your pain; it stings. We as educators mourn with you. Again, you are not forgotten. We see your hard work. We value your unique perspectives. We hear your audacious voices. We cherish all of it, and we will continue to do so even from afar.
I am sad for you; truly, I am. I feel deeply for you; truly, I do. It makes my heart hurt as I write. But if there is any group that can plow through this in creative ways, it is your group. There is no pandemic strong enough to silence you or dent the passion of your generation. Keep your head up and keep fighting. Our country needs you because you provide hope for our future. This year may not be what you envisioned, but I’m eager to see what you do with it.
After all, it is still very much your year.
Chris Dier, a high school teacher"
Although many schools have not yet released their decisions, there are a few trends that I would like to share. First and foremost, GPA is everything. The college cheating scandal may have something to do with this, so far GPA has been the one factor relatively impervious to manipulation. It also represents work over time, not the results of a single Saturday morning or a one-time piece of writing. Recently when talking to a student about the place of the essay in applications, I asked her how she would feel if she learned that a 3.5 student was granted admission over her, a 3.7 student, due to an essay. She instantly understood why schools rarely do that. There are always exceptions, but in general a great essay gets a student in over someone with very similar numbers with a lesser essay. Demonstrated interest is more important than ever for the schools that track it. I always give my students a list of which of their schools look at DI. One of my students was rolled over from EA to regular decision. She was crushed because it was one of her target schools, but she had failed to reach out to the school in any form so the school believed she was not a serious applicant. She is now scrambling to visit her top five schools. Visit your top schools if they track DI, it can be a deciding factor. I will update further as more colleges release their decisions. The UCs are always interesting!
Masland Educational Consulting