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Bounce, Don’t Break: How to Be a Successful College Applicant in the Age of Covid-19

The college admissions process and the surrounding industry have not been spared by the Covid-19 outbreak. Students crafting their applications for the 2020-21 cycle might find themselves impacted in numerous ways, among them the inability to attend traditional summer programs, changes in grading policy, and the suspension of athletic and creative extracurricular activities. While these changes might feel destructive to a resume, students must remember that every single one of their peers is in the same off-kilter boat. The most successful applicants will weather this cycle by thinking outside the box and finding creative ways to continue to build a unique narrative demonstrating their value to dream schools.

The best way to start the process of thinking outside of the box is to shift your perspective: instead of preoccupying yourself with what the crisis has taken away, think about what you can give back. Right now there are many needs that are not being adequately fulfilled: medical care, food, hygienic equipment and other goods are in short supply in the states hit hardest by the virus. A good place to start is researching volunteer opportunities near you to help meet these needs: whether by organizing your neighborhood to donate to food drives or sewing masks for essential workers, there are endless ways to assist these efforts.

While volunteering to assist in the relief effort is a good place to start, the most successful applicants in the cycle will be the ones who use their personalized talents and passions to help their communities. Think about the narrative that you want to present to colleges: a college application is ultimately about convincing your school of choice that you will be a valuable addition to their campus. What better way to communicate your value than showing how you improved your community during an emergency?


For example: if you are planning to study medicine and cannot physically shadow physicians, reach out to medical researchers and offer your time and service. If you want to go into politics, contact local officials and work with them to compile best practices policy from similar communities. If you have a career in business ahead of you, draft a comparative study of industry responses to supply chain shortages. If healthcare, government, or business policy intrigues you, build a database documenting the intersection of corporate and government Covid-19 responses.

Your response to adverse circumstances says a lot about your character. Be the student that uses this time to contribute something both unique to your own interests AND that adds value to your community. Your action can be local and still make a big impact, especially if it has a framework others can replicate. It should be something that builds the story of who you are as a college applicant. No part of our lives has remained untouched by the virus, which means that anything you are passionate about has a need that isn’t being met. Be the person who bounces and doesn’t break.

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