The Academic Summer of COVID-19

The Academic Summer of COVID-19

by Neil Chyten

Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled. Every day, in the year of coronavirus and COVID-19, it seems as if hundreds of summer programs are cancelled.  Just today, for example, we were informed that the summer pre-college program in Music at Carnegie Mellon University was cancelled. The State University of New York system, SUNY, has cancelled its pre-college summer programs, and it is a sure bet that all other New York based summer college programs will be closed as well. Harvard recently cancelled its summer study abroad program for its students. As COVID-19 becomes more prevalent across the country in the weeks ahead, it is an absolute certainty that summer programs will close causing a great deal of stress and anxiety throughout the high school student community, not only in the US but also around the world. 

And this is not the only problem we foresee in the summer of COVID-19. Many international students who have traveled home in the wake of this tragedy may have a difficult time coming back any time soon. For high-aspiring students seeking to differentiate themselves from others by means of inspirational activities may be relegated to more normal, mundane activities such as taking online courses and self-study.   

As a college admission consultant, I am already trying to figure out how to help my students differentiate themselves during this difficult, and hopefully ephemeral, period of time. I am also trying to wrap my head around how colleges are going to figure out this maze of GPA madness, test score subtraction, paucity of recommendations, and shortage of activities.  Of course, today, the University of California system announced that it would go test optional for next year, but does this, in fact, create even greater anxiety since more weight than ever will be placed on fewer characteristics. It also may give a strong advantage to students who are able to take the test and earn high scores. 

The COVID-19 conundrum extends far beyond college admission and into the realm of psychology. Students have just had the rug pulled out from under them. They are standing on shaky and uncertain ground. They are living through an unprecedented experience and there is no certainty in any aspect of their final years of high school and entrance into college. Let’s not forget that these are teenagers who are already under a great deal of pressure from their parents, from their schools, from their peers, and even from their hormones. Add this incredible level of uncertainty to the mix and you could have a volatile mixture. Let’s never forget how truly different this year is from any year in history. Hopefully, we can all remember this and act accordingly.The other day, I got angry at a restaurant for screwing up in order to my 95-year-old father. When I asked for a refund, they only offered a partial one which made me even angrier. It only took five minutes for me to catch myself and understand the extraordinary pressure that restaurants are under these days. Not only will I not ask for a refund or a partial refund, I will be sure to apologize and to thank that restaurant for its continued service under extraordinarily difficult conditions. The same holds true for our sons and daughters, students, teachers, summer school coordinators, colleges, and school administrators. We all must take a step back and be patient, forgiving, and understanding. We would also be well served to treat our children with a much higher degree of understanding and forgiveness when it comes to transgressions, or even being lazy for once in their lives because their classes are canceled. I don’t think we can fully understand the emotions that are at play during this crisis. I believe it is better to act with the degree of caution than to act with impatience or anger. It is the summer of 2020. It is the summer of COVID-19. Let this also be the summer of patience and understanding.

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