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Applying to College During a Pandemic: Extracurriculars and Essays

Well, here we are. Your classes are online, all of your exciting extracurricular events are canceled, and you’re barely even allowed to leave the house.

Probably not how you were expecting to spend the end of your junior year, huh?

You’re allowed to feel bad, you’re allowed to mourn the loss of your prom and other exciting events, and you’re certainly allowed to catch up on any classes you may have been feeling a little iffy about. There’s no way around it: coronavirus sucks.

But you also have to get a start on your college applications soon. Everything may be up in the air, but time marches on, and you’ve still gotta get everything done by the fall.

If you’re looking for ways to fill your time, there’s plenty you can do. Let’s divide our ideas up into two main categories: bolstering your applications and filling out your applications.

Bolstering Your Applications

No matter what your “thing” has been in high school, you’re probably having a little trouble doing it right now. Everything from musical performances to debate tournaments to science competitions has been canceled for the rest of the school year.

Colleges know that, and they won’t fault you for it. But you should still use this time to do something that’s going to help you stand out on applications. You’re just a little limited on what that might be.

After all at some point -- whether it’s in an essay or an interview -- you’re probably going to need to explain to colleges how you spent your time while quarantined. And “watching every season of The Great British Baking Show” isn’t gonna cut it!

Here are a few ideas to start you brainstorming on how you can spend your time creatively and productively.

  • Volunteer to help out elderly or immunocompromised people in your neighborhood -- from a safe distance, of course!

  • Build a website or an app

  • Read, read, read

  • Learn a new language -- whether it’s Japanese or Javascript

  • Start an online business

  • Find a creative way to boost morale in your community

  • Take up a hobby you’ve never even considered before -- crocheting, anyone?

  • Start social media accounts for your clubs that are currently on pause, then see if you can grow your following to 100, or 1,000, or more

  • Finally write that sci-fi novel you’ve been thinking about all year

  • Get an online internship

  • Take a free online course -- check out websites like Coursera or MOOC to find courses offered by prestigious universities. (Just don’t expect it to boost your chances of admission at those schools!)

Filling Out Your Applications

If you’ve got the time, you can get a head start on your applications now! But whether you’re starting already or are waiting until school lets out for the summer, you’re going to have to think about how you’re going to address this global pandemic in your applications.

Everyone is going to want to write about coronavirus in their essays. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to see colleges asking students to write additional essays about their quarantine experiences.

No matter what, you’re going to have to be thoughtful about the way you address this issue in your essays. “Coronavirus made me stay at home for weeks, and my classes were changed to be online” is not going to be a unique or compelling story! You’re going to have to think about the ways in which your experience is unique. How did the quarantine affect you differently from the way it affected your classmate or a student across the country?

This is part of why it’s really going to help if you’re able to talk about something productive you did while quarantined! You want to show colleges that you’re proactive, that you’re always learning and creating opportunities for yourself, even under adverse conditions.

Yes, colleges will be understanding about the fact that you had far fewer opportunities this semester than you had planned. But you’re still going to face stiff competition -- especially if you’re applying to ultra-selective colleges like the Ivies or “Ivy-plus” schools. If you want to be competitive, you’ll need to show that you did something with your time.

Not sure how to show that on your applications? No worries! Eureka counselors can help you show colleges that you’re the kind of person who didn’t just sit around during the coronavirus pandemic -- you’re the kind of person who did something. Set up your free consultation today to talk to us about how we can help!

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