I just got off the phone with a high school junior who told me that they “just aren’t interested about college anymore due to COVID-19.” I listened quietly as they vented their feelings of discouragement and fear. I heard their concerns and let them know that I understood their feelings. Then we agreed to follow up on this discussion in a couple of days, after they had some time to think about it further.
Unfortunately, this was the second student in the past four days to share similar concerns with me about their future college plans. I get it. Life feels pretty challenging right now.
You may have dreamed about going to college all of your life. You may even have a “dream college” you’ve started to research or have already visited. Like my students, you’re also likely stuck at home, taking your classes virtually, feeling isolated, and possibly struggling to bring purpose, meaning, and focus to your days of social distancing.
Here are the steps I suggest to maintaining your motivation for your college search. We’ll also explore how you can still follow your dreams and future plans for college, even when the future seems so unclear.
Acknowledge your feelings and learn to manage them
It’s important to know—and understand—that uncertainty breeds stress and anxiety. When certainty is questioned, our stress responses are automatically triggered. Our brains prefer to know the outcome of situations, according to scientific studies (regardless of what that outcome may be), rather than staying in uncertain territory. So what can you do now? What do you have control over?
First know that your mindset during challenging and uncertain times is the one thing that you can control. Controlling your perspective allows you to sit in the driver’s seat and lead your emotional reactions to safety and purpose. This is your opportunity to not only discover new colleges but to deepen your knowledge of the schools you may be already considering.
Don’t let isolation stop you from taking a college tour
Technology has opened the door for students to explore colleges from their own homes, and now is the perfect time to take advantage of that. Many colleges are offering virtual tours from their own websites. There are also many sites that cater specifically to helping you find virtual tours. Or consider the option of scheduling a phone call with an admission counselor to learn more about their admission process. Whatever you decide, do your homework first. Have questions ready that demonstrate you have looked over their website and application already. This helps colleges and universities know that you’re a truly interested candidate.
Discover and explore colleges through social media
Many schools post photos and videos of campus life; some even hold live Facebook sessions for students to answer questions in real time. Follow schools that interest you and take note of what they’re currently doing to keep your interest in what they have to offer students, especially at a time like this. If you see something that looks too good to be true, then it probably deserves more research.
Make a list of what you’re looking for in a college or university
Knowing what it is that appeals to you in a school helps focus your attention on the posts or information that will be meaningful to you. It’s hard to know when you’ve found a “good fit” if you don’t know what it is you’re looking for. Think about majors, location, size, campus activities, housing, etc. What appeals to you? What dissuades you? This initial investigation can help you weed out schools you know won’t make the final cut.
Discuss your plans with your family
Choosing a college is, to some degree, a family decision. The financial and emotional implications will impact your family as much as they impact you. Now may be the ideal time (since there’s a good chance you’re house-bound together) to talk with your family about their expectations, financial boundaries, and thoughts about your future. They may give you ideas to think about that you haven’t considered yet, like how close or far away from home is manageable for everyone. Ask your parents or older siblings to reflect on their college experiences if they attended. Don’t make a decision based solely on their expectations of what is right for you, but listen to their ideas since they really know you and probably have some good advice.
Listen to your gut and be kind to yourself
Figuring out where to go to college is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life. It’s okay to trust yourself and follow your instincts. If something you hear or see interests and excites you, take note and pursue finding out what those feelings are all about. Know that in these uncertain times, you’re probably experiencing many conflicting feelings that change as the information around us changes by the day, hour, even by the minute. You’re exploring, and it’s okay to change your mind as you collect more information and compare your notes about each school.
Last but not least, remember that getting into college is not the finish line; it’s the beginning of a new adventure. I challenge you to find opportunity during these difficult times. Open your mind and control your perspective. Your future is out there waiting for you.
Find out more about your schools of interest now using our College Search tool.