Last Updated: May 1, 2020
The end of the school year should be a happy time for high school and college seniors—one door is closing and another is opening, with a lot of fanfare in between. But we know this year is very different, and seniors are facing a lot of disappointing cancelations because of COVID-19. In-person commencements, graduation parties, senior nights, proms, and other special events just can’t happen in the current environment.
There isn’t a lot we can say to make it better, because the situation just…sucks. But even though a lot of celebrations and ceremonies have been canceled or postponed, it's important to remember that nothing can take away all that you’ve accomplished over the past four years!
We reached out to some counselors in the CollegeXpress community to see what other words of encouragement they could offer members of the Class of 2020 who are feeling down about missing out on so much. Here’s what they had to say!
It’s okay to feel disappointed
“Being disappointed about these cancellations is normal. Allow yourself to have these feelings, but know they won't last forever.” — Eric Endlich, PhD from Top College Consultants in Needham, MA
“I'm encouraging my high school seniors to allow themselves to be disappointed about what they're missing and still be grateful about what they do have right now. I'm also helping them focus on what they can control at the moment and to be excited about their college acceptances.” — Amy Sack, PhD from Admissions Accomplished LLC in Ponte Vedra, FL
“Seniors will probably miss all of those important and memorable milestones, and that is really tough. The pandemic is really devastating for them. My advice is to find the silver lining in having more family time and being grateful for their health.” — Mindy Peterson from CollegeNod LLC in Malibu, CA
“Words probably won't help, but I remind them that they are living through historic, unprecedented times and that it's very difficult.” — Kate Sonnenberg from KS College Success in Montclair, NJ
Think about the future
“Let this thing that is bigger than us all bond you and give you a shared identity. Transcend the obstacles and invent new and better traditions and ways to celebrate together. You are still young and have a lot of life ahead. Find ways to enjoy and appreciate what is there and pay attention to the details. Your grandchildren will want to hear all about it someday.” — Anonymous
“Your adaptability and how you choose to react will be finishing attributes and skills that will bode well for the future.” — Roni Rodier from Knowledgeforcollege LLC in Fairfield, CT
“This will be a time you’ll remember. Journal your feelings and what is happening to share with others in the future.” — Anonymous
Take care of yourself
“My heart goes out to high school and college seniors—there are so many wonderful events, experiences, and ceremonies that they will miss out on. Take one day at a time. Use the time at home to work on résumés, career research, networking, etc. Stay busy but take time for a mental health break a well. They need to nourish their minds and souls. Be kind. Be patient.” — Anonymous
“It’s normal to feel stressed now. Senior year is stressful under the best circumstances. Please rely on your support system and take time to mourn and process your feelings." — Natalie Whitcraft Pacholl from SEH America in Vancouver, WA
“Your health and safety are the most important things to all of us, and while missing out on activities and such isn’t fun, in the scheme of things, it's a small part of your four-year experience.” — C. Adams from Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, CA
“Recognize what you can and cannot control. Try and take good care of yourself and stay positive.” — Rana Slosberg from Slosberg College Solutions LLC in Bridgewater, NJ
Celebrate your accomplishments in different ways
“I'm really feeling for you. Many schools are looking at doing something later in the summer to help students have a sense of closure. I realize school reunions can't replace a graduation ceremony, but I recommend trying to attend because seeing everyone again will help you get at least some sense of closure.” — Mark Stucker from School Match 4U, Inc. in Fairburn, GA
“Break tradition and be creative.” — Eliza Garcia from Berta Cabaza Middle School in San Benito, TX
“Find ways to celebrate these milestones in a creative way—and remember that no one can take away your memories of the times with friends!” — Anonymous
This situation is hard
“Acknowledge that this sucks! I try to remind my students it's the accomplishment, not the celebration, that matters. Try to find ways to celebrate with those you love—even a virtual celebration is good. I’m trying to make a video for senior awards night so that they can hear their name even if they aren't on stage.” — Anonymous
“It stinks! And while it's so hard, health and safety are the most important things to ensure you have many happy milestones later in life. I'm also encouraging students to think outside the box on ways to celebrate special events virtually (but we know it's definitely not the same thing)." — Jill Madenberg from Madenberg College Consulting in Lake Success, NY
You'll get through it
“It's important to acknowledge the circumstances, because it is a true loss. I'm going through it with my own daughter, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. She left for spring break not knowing she wouldn't be returning for the remainder of her final semester. (Her belongings are still at Penn!) It's tough. Students had a lot of plans, and high school seniors look forward to the culmination of their high school career. Many had their prom outfits and dates and were excited about the end of the sports season and all of the other senior privileges that they've anticipated over the years. Then poof—it was all taken away. Many schools are trying to come up with a way to make it special for the seniors, but it certainly isn't what was expected. Unfortunately, this is the way it has to be. But these students are resilient, and they will pivot and adjust. And they'll have a fascinating story to tell their grandchildren one day!" — Laurie Kopp Weingarten from One-Stop College Counseling in Morganville, NJ
Your support system is there to help
“I don't think any words can make up for missing out on your senior activities. The best I can do is be available and listen when they need to talk or rant. Sometimes having someone just listen is all that is needed.” — Anonymous
“The entire world is going through these uncharted waters. Talk with somebody, anybody, about your emotions and don't keep them bottled up.” — Anonymous
“This situation is unprecedented; adults don't have answers to the many questions you might have. Not having end-of-the-year events for seniors, or spring sports seasons, or prom, or an awards night, or possibly graduation in this instance—this is all very discouraging. I think it would be good to say that your teachers are truly thinking of you, and we wish we could share your grief more than we can. This is indeed another chapter of 'Life Is Not Fair,' but there will be a silver lining—you just need to look for it. Maybe you'll find it in the members of your family. Maybe you'll appreciate what you have in a stronger way. But, yes, it's not fair. You're right—and you're still a good person." — Richard Murphy from Saint Pius X High School in Kansas City, MO
High school and college seniors: congratulations on all you’ve accomplished, and know that we’re all thinking of you! If you need some more positivity, check out what other students are doing to keep their spirits up.