NS College Consulting Blog

Monday, May 18, 2020

Summer Plans During a Pandemic

When you think of summer, you probably imagine a life much different than our current reality. To be honest, I am struggling to envision what these next months will look like having to spend them at home, keeping my distance from the people and places that I love. While the days get warmer and longer, I find myself daydreaming of the summer plans I will likely miss out on due to COVID-19. Can you relate? As a high school student, you probably can! 

High school summers are typically ones of preparation, relaxation, and above all else, fun. But as the days pass by and the future remains uncertain, many activities are being put on hold to accommodate for the enduring pandemic. Although your plans may have changed, been postponed, or cancelled altogether, there are still plenty of ways to make the most of the months ahead. Today we are sharing some simple solutions to ensure that this summer will be your most productive yet!

Make the Most of Your Internship

Internships are a brilliant way to gain experience in the profession or industry that you are interested in. These opportunities help you to determine whether or not you enjoy the day-to-day work of this profession, while providing experience that looks great on a resume. Unfortunately, due to the continued closure of many businesses across the US, your internship may be in jeopardy. Let me be the first to encourage you today that now is not the time to give up on these incredible opportunities! Although your internship may not take the form you had imagined it would, here are some ways to pivot and make the most of them.

  • Reach out to the company or organization and ask if you can tune into their virtual meetings. From personal experience, there is so much to be learned from simply listening to how seasoned professionals interact and converse within a formal meeting. Having the chance to take notes and observe will provide you with tangible skills you can then take and apply to your classes, club meetings, and future job interviews.
  • Networking and making connections are major benefits of a summer internship. Benefits you do not have to sacrifice due to COVID-19. Seek guidance and mentorship from someone at the business or company through scheduling an informational interview. Informational interviews are a great tool to help you determine whether or not a certain academic area or profession is right for you. We recommend taking twice as long to prepare and develop questions in advance. So, for instance, if you are able to get thirty minutes of someone’s time, take at least an hour to research their background and prepare insightful questions about their career path, daily duties, and what advice they would give to someone just getting started. Interviews like this are a great learning opportunity and also allow you to make professional connections in the field you’re interested in. 
  • Though it may not seem like it, some industries are busier now than they ever have been! Ask the company or business if there are any side projects you can assist with from home. When doing so, make sure to highlight the software and technology skills you already have (i.e. Zoom, Microsoft Office, etc.) so that they feel comfortable assigning a task to you. This is a great opportunity to showcase your skills and commitment to the company as well as highlight your ability to adapt to a remote workplace. 

Make the Most of the Summer Semester!

Many students are frustrated after finding the summer program they were looking forward to has been cancelled. Thankfully, most programs have created a virtual feature for students to utilize. If your program does not provide an online option, there are still many ways you can grow academically this summer. In fact, colleges and universities across the nation are gearing up for their summer semester, which will offer more virtual classes and online engagement opportunities than ever before. 

  • Colleges in your area are likely offering for-credit coursework that you can enroll in as a high school student. Though this option will cost more than other online learning platforms, these classes can be directly applied to your future degree! Reach out to a community college near you and see if they offer any ‘summer specials’ where you can take courses at a discounted rate. When researching nearby schools, it is critical that you check their accreditation status, as most major universities will not accept transfer credit from unaccredited institutions. While the thought of spending your summertime focused on school may not be appealing, online classes can provide a head start on courses and skills that will be required for your future degree.

  • Explore online platforms like Coursera and EdX for free and unique classes offered by institutions like Harvard, MIT, and Johns Hopkins. Classes range from technology and medicine to persuasive writing and business. Or, focus on boosting your happiness during this challenging time by taking The Science of Well-Being course offered by Yale University. Though both sites allow you to ‘upgrade’ and earn a certificate, we recommend you do not and instead use these classes to simply broaden your academic scope and remain sharp heading into next school year. 

  • Expand your learning by developing your own independent study and research. You can also volunteer to assist in a research project near you to gain real-world skills. This is also a great way to gain practical experience in your field of interest. Track your projects and research by developing a specific goal or outcome to complete by the end of summer. For instance, keep a detailed time log of the hours you spend working on research or develop a final project, summarizing your findings. Doing so will ensure the integrity of your work as well as provide concrete evidence necessary for resumes and college applications. 

  • Use your time to engage online with the colleges and universities you are considering. Many schools are offering virtual tours and webinars you can tune into to learn more about the campus and community. Use social media to connect with admissions counselors, student ambassadors, and campus leaders. Engaging in this way will give you a great idea of what to expect from your future college home while keeping you excited about the future. 

Make the Most of Your Money

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about more than just health concerns. With strict stay-at-home orders, many parents and students are experiencing lay-offs or a loss of income. Perhaps you have been directly affected by financial uncertainty. We want to encourage you that there are still opportunities for you to work and make the most of your money this summer. 

  • Get creative to find jobs and alternative ways to earn money while maintaining your health and safety. Ask your employer about the possibility of continuing your role remotely. If not, inquire about tasks you can complete from home such as coordinating social media accounts, customer outreach, or editing and proofreading company documents. 
  • Talk with your family and see if they are able to pay you to complete chores around the house. You could offer to babysit and tutor younger siblings during the day or help with cooking and keeping the house tidy. Offer to mow your neighbor’s lawn or assist with yard work they may have. If you are an animal lover, you could even walk their dogs! 
  • Take time to research scholarship opportunities available to you and create a cost-comparison sheet to see what college or university provides the best financial options. Make time in your daily routine to search and apply for scholarships, as there are truly thousands upon thousands of them! Many universities are offering free financial counseling, so reach out to your college admissions counselor or financial aid officer and schedule a time to discuss your different options.

Make the Most of Serving Others

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our nation can find hope through serving others. Choosing to commit your extra time volunteering speaks volumes to your character and will impress admissions officers at the schools to which you are applying. Though community service and volunteer hours look great on a resume, we encourage you to serve not simply to improve your application, but to make the world a better place. 

  • Use your artistic abilities to brighten the lives of those directly affected by illness or disabilities. You can create cards for hospitalized kids or adults with developmental disabilities, where your handmade masterpieces are delivered directly to them to spark joy in their lives. Share your musical talents through recording videos of your songs and submitting them directly to patients. Volunteer to read, edit, proofread or scan documents for BookShare, a website designed for people with reading disabilities. 
  • Rally together your teammates to organize a charity lift-a-thon. If you lack the equipment to do so, consider bodyweight exercises, like push-ups or a ‘beat the clock’ workout challenge. Reach out to local sporting goods stores or your school booster club to see if they will pledge a donation for every person who shows they complete the challenge on social media.
  • Reach out to the elderly in your neighborhood and offer to help with yard work, or to order and pick up their groceries. Connect with a local retirement home and establish a virtual pen-pal with one of the residents. Pot small plants with members of your family and leave them on the doorstep of your neighbors to encourage them through this difficult time. 
  • Discover other unique volunteer and service opportunities that allow you to leverage your unique skills and talents for the good of others. Be intentional with how you choose to spend your time serving. For instance, choosing to dedicate many hours to one organization versus a few hours to multiple organizations will show your passion and commitment to a cause rather than simply volunteering to strengthen your resume. 

Although this summer will not likely be the fantasy you imagined, you can still make the most of it! Admissions leaders are excited to see how resourceful you choose to become during your time at home. Use this season as an opportunity to grow personally and academically by challenging yourself to stay involved in your community and committed to your passions. Moreover, know that the only thing more important than who you are today is who you are becoming tomorrow. 

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Chances are, if you are a current high school junior, your entire world has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools are closed, classes have been moved online, and nation-wide tests postponed or cancelled all together. At times, it can be unbelievable that this is our new reality. 

It is likely that you did not envision your junior year ending in this fashion. You had dances, recitals and spring breaks to look forward to! Not only has your junior year been upended, but as our nation decides whether to ease back into normalcy or remain under restrictions, your senior year now hangs in the balance. 

Thankfully, there is good news! Colleges across the country are experiencing similar frustration and confusion as they decide how to navigate this season. Many institutions are facing difficult choices about how to recruit new students while keeping others committed during these months of lockdown. In fact, the large majority of leaders in college admissions are responding with a resounding, “We Get It”. 

Per his article by a similar title, Brennan Barnard jokes that “embrace uncertainty” could not only be the catch phrase for spring 2020, but the general theme of college admissions. Although admissions leaders may not be as well-versed in responding to a pandemic, many can relate this time to other remarkable seasons in years past. Their ability to weather the storms and make necessary adjustments should act as encouragement for you through this pandemic and the months that lie ahead. 

Perhaps you still have worries—it would be surprising if you did not! But just as admissions leaders around the US are extending encouragement to high school students like yourself, we wanted to address your worries head-on and provide some practical tips to conquer them.  

Five Fears You May Be Experiencing, and How to Capitalize on Them:

1 – My Test Was Cancelled

Standardized tests, one of the many methods colleges use to evaluate applications, have been cancelled, postponed, or moved virtual in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The College Board has shifted its upcoming test to August with hopes that it will still be offered in the in-person format. And, while the ACT remains silent on the probability of its June test, it is unlikely that it will occur, at least in many states. For many juniors like yourself, this raises the concern of not just when, but if you will be able sit for these important tests. 

In hopes to address the widespread concern of when and how the SAT and ACT will be offered, many universities have chosen to go ‘test-optional’ for the upcoming year. This simply means that applicants are not required to submit official test scores but can choose to if they have the ability to take the exam. If you are curious about whether the colleges you are interested in have adopted similar policies for the upcoming year, reach out to your counselor as soon as possible! 

While some schools have adopted temporary policies that may not require test scores, admissions leaders are still encouraging students to test if they have the ability to. In fact, having test scores could perhaps strengthen your application in ways they may not have in the past, and many schools still link test scores to merit scholarship eligibility. So, how do you prepare for a test that you don’t know the date of or where it will be located? 

Though it may be tempting, now is not the time to become lax in your preparation. Try your best to stick to the regimen you were following prior to COVID-19. Create a comfortable, quiet, space where you can study without distractions. Dedicate specific times each week to reviewing content and taking practice sections. In addition to your routine review, we recommend taking one practice test per every six hours of review, or once a month at a minimum. Devoting time to your preparation will ensure that you are ready for test day, even if you are unsure when that day will be. More than anything, make the decision to use your time at home wisely and continue to be disciplined—it will pay off in the end!

2 – My Grades Have Changed

In order to adjust for the variables associated with moving school online, many schools have made the decision to utilize a pass/fail grading system. Coupled with the stress of classes being taught virtually, students are finding themselves dedicating more hours and effort to coursework which may not be accurately expressed by a pass/fail grade. Thankfully, colleges and universities understand that this spring semester will have a huge asterisk next to it. Leaders are evaluating applications and amending policies, understanding that some circumstances, like pass/fail grades, are out of your control. 

Although this form of grading operates outside of the traditional four-point scale, many schools still provide students the option of taking a letter grade. This is certainly the best option for your GPA! Choosing to take a letter grade instead of pass/fail will also provide prospective colleges evidence of your abilities as a student and allow them to better gauge the rigor of your coursework. 

To get the most out of your semester, stick to your routines and find new ways to be successful in the virtual classroom. A great way to do this is by setting measurable, achievable goals for yourself at the start of every week. This will help you stay focused and spend more time on important tasks. Having measurable goals may also aid in the collegiate admissions process, as achieving these goals will provide you with confidence to reinforce your academic accomplishments from this semester. Goal setting will not only help you get through the end of this difficult junior year but is a skill that will benefit you for years to come! 

3 – My Technology is Unreliable

Rest assured that you are not the only student who has struggled with unreliable wi-fi connections and slow computers. In fact, many students across our nation are finding it difficult to acclimate to online learning. Some students have reported finishing up their spring semesters using only their cell phones as they are unable to access computers and broadband connections to support virtual learning. This issue has created fears for many students who are needing to meet deadlines, take online tests, or tune into video lectures at a certain time of day.  

If you find yourself without the technology or wi-fi connection you need to succeed during this semester, know that there are solutions for you! Many schools have allowed students to rent or share computers to aid in their online coursework. If you do not have access to a device, we recommend reaching out to your high school to see if this is an option for you. If you do have a laptop but lack the wi-fi strength to accommodate video calls and digital learning platforms, many college campuses have extended their visitor wi-fi connections to parking lots, allowing students to tap into their network from the comfort of their cars. Otherwise, look into bulk downloading assignments and worksheets using a wi-fi signal or the hotspot on your phone and then completing the majority of your school work offline. 

4 – My Season Was Ruined

The shutdowns associated with COVID-19 have likely affected more than just your academics. Many students are now feeling the pain of losing a sports season, a recital, or a final project they’d been preparing for over the course of the year. These extracurricular activities typically help bolster your application and give you an edge during the admissions process. But without them, how are you supposed to stand out? 

Colleges understand that your activities have been cancelled and will not hold it against you! Admissions committees are impressed not by the amount of activities on your resume, but the passion behind your involvement. That being said, remaining engaged amidst COVID-19 will set you apart from other students. 

Although your normal activities have been cancelled, look to stay involved in your local community. Utilize your individual skills and talents to help others during this time of isolation. Take advantage of this break from extracurricular activities to read books you have been wanting to explore, brush up on old hobbies or discover ways to keep expanding personally during this unprecedented time. 

5 – My Senior Year is Uncertain

As spring 2020 slowly fades into summer and your junior year comes to a close, you are probably wondering whether your upcoming senior year will look different than you imagined. Summer camps may be postponed or cancelled, college visits suspended, and school districts unsure about whether they will reopen for the fall semester. While it is easy to become discouraged, now is the time to get creative and innovative with your summer plans! 

Continue your college search, even while cooped up at home. Many institutions have developed virtual tours you can tune into through their websites or YouTube channels. Remaining focused on your future goals will help alleviate the stress of heading into an uncertain senior year.  

Although you may not know what the upcoming months have in store, choose to use this time to grow personally and academically. Seek out ways to expand yourself. Sign up for free, online courses where you learn about everything from literature to cooking. Take care of your health and continue to prioritize the people and hobbies that enrich your life. 

During this season of shutdown, we want to encourage you that no matter what the future has in store, do not allow this pandemic to put your dreams and goals on hold. 

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