5 minutes reading time (954 words)

How Juniors Can Prepare for College During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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By Jeanne Neuwirth, LCSW Clinician & SADD Club Advisor for Pathways

First of all, take a deep breath. In through your nose for four counts, hold for two counts, out for four counts. Now tell yourself, "I'm good. I got this."

Your health (and that of your loved ones), both mental and physical, is more important than anything else right now. When life gets rough, you should always put your wellbeing first.

If you're feeling stressed, know it's valid and you're in good company. The most important thing to remind yourself is you've been through hard stuff before, and you got through it! Reflect on rough times you've survived. Where you put your thoughts is very powerful — if you decide to turn your attention to things to be grateful for, you will feel more content and less anxious.

Check on your loved ones, family and friends who may be lonely or worried. Lifting others up is good for the spirit. Call a grandparent, cousin, aunt, and ask how they are.

Also, go easy on everyone in your household. People tend to get cranky when confined and anxious, so before responding with anger or frustration, pause and try to reflect in an empathetic way. For example, say something like, "I'm sorry you're upset about…" You'd be amazed by how healing this is — for them and for yourself. Also, take a break from news and social media, watch funny videos or even better get out for a walk.

Practical advice for juniors preparing for college

High school juniors across the country are stressing because everything they were intending to put on college applications is now canceled — no sports, no shows, no clubs, no volunteer hours, etc. So, what can you do to set yourself apart? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Get creative: If you have a hobby or skill, go on Instagram Live and teach something. This could be an athletic talent, drawing/painting, a musical skill, a craft, etc. Check out this teen who created a website to help the elderly in his town.
  • Volunteer to tutor: You can do this virtually through Zoom or Google Hangout. Reach out to teachers and let them know your availability.
  • Take a free online class: Many universities offer free courses during this time.
  • Learn a new language: Now's the time to buckle down and learn that language you've always been interested in mastering.
  • Learn to code: Coding is a highly valued (and accessible) skill to hone today.
  • Turn to YouTube: YouTube has many how-to videos that teach unique skills and DIY crafts.

Go on a virtual college tour or participate in a virtual Q & A 

Even if you can't visit the colleges you are interested in, many offer virtual tours, or you can go on CampusTours or YouVisit for tours of hundreds of campuses. This is a good time to visit the websites of all colleges you are considering and familiarize yourself with their pages, what majors they offer and what classes are necessary for each major. Research careers linked to different majors — see what work your major of choice prepares you for.

Additionally, this is a good time to reach out to college admissions officers and ask any questions you might have. These interactions also demonstrate your interest in the specific college(s), and that interest can be a factor in the admissions process. However, make sure your questions go beyond what can generally be found by simply reviewing their website. Keep a record of schools you visit virtually and any virtual Q & A you participate in; you might need it for the application.

For those in AP classes

The College Board has announced they are creating 45-minute AP exams you can take remotely. Exam content will include what high schools have taught to date, and not new material. The College Board will be providing further guidance, but for now, you can visit their website and participate in free live-streamed AP review classes.

College essay

Start brainstorming what you want to write your college essay about. Keep a journal with ideas that come up — a seed might grow into something interesting and worthwhile. However, resist the urge to write about coronavirus unless you have a unique angle that would stand out. Colleges don't want thousands of essays on the same topic. Instead, consider how this time has given you a chance to think differently about another topic.

Teacher recommendations  

Start thinking about which two teachers would be good choices to ask for recommendations. Whose class have you done especially well in? With whom have you developed a relationship? With the lack of activities, teacher recommendations may become even more important.

Although this is a trying time, it can also present an opportunity to college-bound juniors who use some of this time creatively. Students and parents should feel free to reach out to Pathways for support anytime. Join Pathways Google Classroom at m36hm7c for a boost of positivity and mental health tips, and for information on how to reach out to all the Pathways staff via email. We also now have the capability to do virtual sessions with students.

Let me know if any of these tips were useful at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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