College Admissions Will Never Be The Same, So Change Your Strategy.
There is no tried-and-true recipe for carrying out college application and choice tasks. I think that in its best form, it’s a self-created, meandering and personal journey that is largely based on an applicant first discovering college admission stats that line up with his numbers and attributes (that’s the “come back to Earth” part) — and second, it is based on a hefty amount of gut-level feelings.
In this COVID-19 environment, it is true your young applicant is universally considered to be disadvantaged by a diminished lack of opportunity in terms of being able to visit schools in person (they’re closed) and being given the full-boat/valued-customer treatment by admissions offices. Yes, the final college application list may just end up being based on a wing and a prayer, as they say. You and your kid just might have to punt… well, perhaps with a little acquired education placed under your belts.
But are you guys really that disadvantaged because of the pandemic?
I’ve seen young people visit plenty of campuses in the first-class, face-to-face sort of way and still not be able to discern one school from the next. To a kid, each of them more or less delivers the same thing in terms of acquiring an undergraduate education. Truthfully, in their adolescent (read lovable and normally misguided) brains, they seem to care a whole lot more about “coast-hugging city” over “suburban/close to coast-hugging city” and certainly, in most cases over “rural/country.” (The “country” choice is, after all, a great one for so many exalted reasons, but requires some fancy footwork in order to plant one’s adult sensibilities into an immaturely devised world construct).
Also, it occurs to me that highly planned-and-executed in-person visits to campuses might just add to a teenager’s already skyrocketing level of anxiety and confusion. Who knows? Get a new idea about this universally accepted notion.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad college. No matter where you land, even if you as a young college attendee choose to stay there for as few minutes as possible and transfer elsewhere, you are promised via the experience at hand to receive a world of life lessons. You will indeed discover stuff, that’s for sure. You will not only learn something about specific academic subjects you’ll study, but you will also gain mountains of useful info about yourself as a thinking and feeling person — inside and out. It’s a growing-up time.
Some of it will be hugely fun, interesting, and gratifying, and the rest of it will be boring, sad, torturous, sobering. The experience will be useful. These life lessons are surely delivered by the exalted Princeton University-level of experience just the same as, say, very down-to-planet-earth Indian River State College (look it up). The bottom line is that no matter how you and your teen bob and weave where college plans are concerned during this virus-focused time, it will indeed be enough. And not just enough — downright fruitful, so relax just a bit.
10 Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey
Curious Thing #8
Curious Avoidance of the Fact that our Pandemic Affected Lifestyles are Changing the College Admissions Game Board.
It Will Never Be The Same, So Tweak Your College Application Strategy.
So what do the two of you do now since you can’t tour campuses and college reps’ fall travel plans to visit high schools are being cut way back and your kid is driving you crazy and (take a breath here) you feel like you’re just going to be left with throwing darts at a wall and seeing what sticks?
Right now, go back and revisit the chicken-scratch list you guys created way back in the first half of the recent spring semester… way back before the pandemic sent everyone home and when your kid’s counselor asked your kid for a preliminary list of favorite colleges and the two of you worked on it together. Seems so long ago, yes?
4 Helpful Tips
How to Move Forward with the College Application Process
4 helpful tips to move forward with college applications
Calculate Your Chances of Acceptance
Revisit each school’s website and read about its admissions process (don’t spend more than 5 or 10 minutes there) and quickly read the financial aid info, academics (aka majors and minors), and read about student life. Calculate your chances of being admitted. There are lots of online resources to help with that task. A few fantasy schools are ok, but endeavor to live in reality. A list full of fantasy schools won’t deliver a fairytale ending — just the opposite.
Watch Video Tours
Go to YouTube and watch some or all of the goofy tour videos people have made (for better or worse) on behalf of their respective colleges — most are pretty bad but well-intentioned, so don’t judge an entire school by who is talking into the camera. Remember, they’re just kids and peers, making this stuff on the fly in order to communicate something about a place they’re currently inhabiting. It’s not intended to be Oscar-winning material. You’ll watch some work-study kid from the admissions office stroll around some campus. It’s a useful activity for you and Junior to carry forth. You’ll get an impression of what it feels like there.
You can’t go there in person at this time, so accept the fact that a video tour is the best you can do. Go to Wikipedia and look up the city/town/village where the school is located. Understand its general culture, weather, geography, customs, history. Also, while you’re there in Wikipedia land, look up the school in question. The dry and objective account to be found there helps to garner some info about a school’s origins, mission, philosophy. It just starts to feel more familiar.
The Choice of Experience is Your Srudent’s
Remember that no college or university is perfect. Each one will be far from it. No matter how websites, reps, and photos doll up their subject colleges, at the end of the day, it really is just “school” with all of its potential problems, drawbacks, and painful moments of loneliness. It’s not Disneyland — not Yale, not NYU, not Boston U. After all, it’s an institution in practically every sense of the word.
But DO believe in and encourage recognition of your child’s own positive sense of self to be cultivated within any given setting — help your teen affirm her unique raw ability to create peace, happiness, creativity, friendships, growth, and enlightenment in any college atmosphere where she will happen to land. Let her know she can choose happiness. She can make the best of it. Or she can choose to cultivate depression, anxiety, pickiness, discord, to hide her head in the sand and demand the world at her feet deliver an impossible outcome. Her experience is all hers and hers alone to create. It’s a lesson worth driving home again and again.
Roll With the Punches
You know, if the virus continues to proliferate, colleges and universities continue to mitigate a promised world of terrible struggles, your kid is home for an added length of time, and online instruction turns out to be what the higher-ed world is able to figure out and deliver, so what? Do it. It all will indeed come to an end and your child will eventually experience some version of that college-campus fantasy the two of you share. But in the meantime, push forward.
I don’t understand this notion that Junior should take a year off because there is no perceived value in online education and he won’t have that elusive fall college experience — which in your mind as the parent is…what, exactly? Kicking through piles of leaves on a campus path in the crisp-morning fall air? A loud carillon clanging out the 8:00 am hour? Beer blasts? I dunno — all swell for sure, but you’re going to put off the satisfying earning of a years-worth of college credits for these elusive notions of an 18-year-old’s ideal good life? Remember, you’ll save on room and board, and that’s a big deal. Good grief, roll with the punches, improvise.
Besides, what’s the alternative? I guess it looks like more of the same — your sad child’s usual current activities, which probably include some combo of moping around the house, complaining, isolating in his room, probably climbing out the bedroom window after you’ve fallen out for the evening and meeting up with other buddies who are living life in the same grounded state? Under such circumstances, online college instruction sounds like a heavenly alternative to me — a potential bastion of engagement and distraction.
If my advice piques your interest even a little…
then check out the next two month’s final offerings in this 10-part series where we’ll examine the creation of a viable final college application list.
You can find the informational series Here of “Ten Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey”
Anne’s insidewink series about the high school and college-planning process you and your teenager may be living through or planning to tackle in the foreseeable future.
Anne Cochran is an award-winning leader of a small and passionate team of educators who opened Valley International Preparatory High School (VIPHS) in August 2018. — a new charter high school dedicated to providing 21st-Century-informed college options to grades 9-12. As a former marketing veteran within Hollywood’s film industry and small-business owner, Anne redirected her career interests nearly 12 years ago to addressing a need she observed within secondary public education, which is to bring optional college options to public school-educated teens who would otherwise be presented with very limited choices. Anne has been married for over 45 years to Chuck Cochran, creator and namesake of “Chuck Cochran’s Music Lab” at VIPHS, and they have two grown children.
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