Austin Prep: Journey of the Heart
March 23, 2021
Managing the College Admissions Process in a Pandemic
By Ms. My Doan, Co-Director, College Counseling
As College Counselors, we love what we do because we have a direct hand in helping students realize their potential and we have front row seats when they achieve their educational goals. It’s thrilling and it’s what fuels us to show up everyday. We spend countless hours dotting the i's and crossing the t's, ensuring that our students are giving themselves the credit that they deserve. In a “normal” year, juniors and seniors carry the enormous weight of ensuring their college list is well-balanced, their personal statement sheds light on some aspect of their lives, and that they are putting their best foot forward. They experience the usual (and good) stressors of getting everything complete and submitted on time, but this year as we are living in a pandemic, everything is magnified.
We have entered the unknown; there is no precedent and no manual to tell us what to expect or how to proceed. In student and family Zoom meetings, we listen to ourselves speaking calmly and carefully as we map out the coming weeks and months, trying to account for all possibilities. And we do this knowing that we are a part of a community that has gone above and beyond at every opportunity as we have navigated the pandemic. At Austin Prep, students were given the opportunity to take at least one standardized test. Our teachers waved their magic wands to ensure students were delivered excellence in the classroom, in whatever form that looked like. Grades were submitted so there was no guessing on the college admissions side whether a student passed or failed a course. We discussed gaps in extracurricular activities, but emphasized that students’ mental and emotional well-being were the top priorities. While some viewed the unknown as distressing and unnerving, we viewed these uncharted waters as liberating and exciting.
We dove in and adapted to an ever evolving admission landscape learning and listening from folks on the other side of the desk, sitting in on dozens of webinars to deliver the most up-to-date content to our families. We welcomed over 100 colleges and universities to connect virtually with our students from as far as France. We reconstructed the College Test Prep Course and leaned in to new possibilities (with hiccups on the way). But through all the unknowns, we have been so lucky and impressed to work with the students and the families that we do; their unwavering perseverance, supportive partnership, and incredible resilience have reassured us that despite tumultuous times, things fall into place.
While we continue to live in uncertain times, COVID-19 has served an important lesson; life is unpredictable and not always linear. Neither is education so we take each day as it comes. While some of our students have already committed to schools including Tufts University, New York University, Boston University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and many other prestigious colleges and universities, others anxiously wait to learn their fate. We eagerly wait with them and will share in their many joys and some sorrows. But one thing remains true. We have every confidence in the world that the Class of 2021 and those who follow them will take the larger lessons learned to live out their mission with deeper gratitude and much more compassion.