CA Curious

COVID-19, self-discovery, and the college search process

April 9, 2020

Ask most college counselors what they love about their job, and we guarantee they’ll respond with fervor, “The kids!” Here at CA, we’re no different: we delight in the daily rush of energy that comes from being around students in an active learning environment – their excitement, ideas, goals, challenges, and triumphs. Most of all, we love the time we’re privileged to spend developing individual relationships with students as they embark on a culminating experience at CA: the rite of passage that is the college search.

Our entire approach to the college search process is grounded in two basic premises. The first: that a successful process is a journey of self-discovery that leads to finding more than one place that will share a student’s values, stimulate them, and help them achieve their aspirations. The second: that finding these places begins with genuine self-searching to identify the qualities the student values the most. While helping students and families discover colleges is certainly a significant part of our work, by far the more interesting part is helping students discover themselves.

We’ve found ourselves thinking about how COVID-19 affects these processes – the process of self-discovery and the college process. And, although we share the sense of loss COVID has brought, we see some silver linings. 

We all have had to pause, to pivot, to reflect.

Students, as we’ve talked with you, we’ve loved hearing what you’ve been up to, the ways you’re spending your time, the old hobbies you’ve renewed, and the new interests you’ve developed. You’ve been reflective, generous, and inventive: you’ve created collaborative music videos; posed thoughtful questions to your peers, reminding each other of the importance of kindness; devoted yourselves to supporting your families, neighborhoods, and communities – and encouraged all of us to do the same.

What you’re doing right now? There is no better example of owning your learning. We understand that it’s tempting to dwell on what opportunities we’ve missed this spring, but we urge you to look at the unexpected windfall of time as a gift. There is absolutely no better opportunity to consider who you are and what matters to you. 

Still searching? For starters, you can never go wrong reading a book, spending time with your family, getting outside, bestowing a random act of kindness. Looking to learn something new? There are tons of free resources if you’d like to try coding, meditating, cooking, exercising, art-observing, language learning – to name just a few.

Whatever you do, do it with gusto and revel in it… and know that in the eventual college process, you will be valued for who you are and what matters to you. 

To borrow from the encouraging words of Tulane Director of Admission Jeff Schiffman in his March 24 blog post

“We totally get it. There are no sports. There is no spring musical. There is no dance recital. Listen, if you include on your Common Application activities section a list of all the books you read for pleasure during your social distancing, I’ll love it. Get creative. Maybe you love to paint and you go Instagram Live a few times and teach people to paint? You could be the next Bob Ross. Or maybe you’re a soccer player and you do a live video teaching people how to dribble a soccer ball on your own? Teaching guitar lessons? Yes please. We will love seeing anything you did during this whacky time.”

 So will we. Promise. Now, if you’ll excuse us, the outdoors awaits.

Written by Leya Jones, College Counselor

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