Like many of you, I envisioned this summer a little differently. I’d spent hours researching the right Airbnb, in just the right location to spend two weeks with my closest friends on a writing retreat in France. Ms. Middleton was headed to Italy, Ms. Dunne was hoping to take her grandson to Ireland and Mr. Almonte had planned a summer full of travel. Needless to say, we were all headed to far-flung destinations.
Well…nobody expects a global pandemic to wipe that all away. Yet, here we are. And while it’s perfectly normal to dwell on what could have been and grieve what we’ve lost, it’s also time to start reimagining what this summer will actually look like. This is the task of high school students all across the world who find that their pre-college programs have moved to remote learning or internships and summer jobs are no longer in-person or are canceled all together. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to be active and engaged with the world around us.
Now more than ever, the “self-care” feels like more than the latest buzz phrase. We recognize that students spend much of their time according to heavily packed schedules. Though being in quarantine has loosened things up a bit, it’s fair to say that even the calmest among us is feeling the stress and strain brought on by the changes in our world. It’s important to take the time to do something that makes you feel happy. This could be as simple as a daily walk (while wearing your mask) or journaling or playing a musical instrument. For Mr. Almonte, self-care means a cup of tea in the morning and online gaming as a way to stay close to friends. Ms. Williams likes to start her morning writing what author Julia Cameron “morning pages” and trying new things in the kitchen like making fresh ricotta (it’s easy!) are bringing her joy. Ms. Middleton’s mornings include a little more shut eye and more cooking than she’s normally able to do.
This is the time to try that craft that you’ve put off because you’re too busy, or pick a book from the stack of books you’ve been meaning to read. If you have a library card, you can download books to a Kindle app or listen to an audiobook at no cost. It’s also important to remember that when we say self-care, we are also talking about taking good care of our mental health in stressful times. There may be times when the best thing to do, is nothing at all. And sometimes, that’s okay. We encourage you to find activities that make you feel joyful, even in the smallest of ways.
If community engagement has always been part of your life or even if you’re getting involved for the first time, don’t be discouraged by the way being quarantined may have limited your options. Instead, think about how technology will make for a volunteer experience that might extend past New York City.
We’ve always said that you don’t have to get on a plane to give back. There has never been a shortage of ways to help your community and the COVID-19 pandemic has, unfortunately, magnified the hardships that many are facing. If you look around your neighborhood or even the larger New York City community, you will find that there are a myriad of ways to get involved. Is there an elderly neighbor who needs help with errands or can you create a fundraiser to assist a local food pantry? There are hundreds of non-profit organizations out there looking for volunteers.
If you already had plans to do a pre-college program or summer camp that has moved to a remote learning plan, don’t be afraid to to stick with it! Even through zoom (or other platforms) there remains the opportunity to explore subject matter that was previously unfamiliar, deepen your knowledge of something you are already passionate about, view leadership in a new way, and engage with peers all across the country and the world.
If you want to find an educational program to follow at your leisure, take a look at the open courseware at institutions and organizations like edX and UC Irvine Open. There are over a dozen of these kinds of programs available to students at no cost.
When college admissions reps sit down to read your application, they are ultimately looking to get to know who you are. They do this through reading your essays, letters of recommendations, and of course the transcript of your grades and courses. But when they look at your list of extracurricular activities, they aren’t counting to see whether or not you use all 10 slots provided by the Common App, nor is there a checklist of activities you must complete, rather they are looking to see how what you do with your free time complements the other aspects of your application. They’re looking for authenticity, real interests that might excite you. As you choose ways to spend your time, focus on the things that make you happy, the subjects that excite you.
Ultimately summer planning is not about checking off a box on your applications for the benefit college admissions offices. It’s about the opportunity for self-care, self-discovery, and the potential to further your learning in a way that fulfills you. We live in a world where technology can bring us closer together, whether that’s through a class taught on zoom or
So how is the college office reimagining our summer? Instead of the classrooms of 181 we’ll host our essay writing workshops and continue to help the class of 2021 to prepare for the fall applications virtually if necessary. But we’ve also reimagined the ways we will spend our summer vacations. Ms. Middleton hopes to spend more time in Long Island, Ms. Williams’ writing retreat will be at her parents’ house in Philly, Mr. Almonte is going to spend his summer writing and reaching his fitness goals. While these may not have been the exact plans we had hoped for, we are embracing the summer for the possibility of what it could be.
We encourage you to do the same.