My teenagers have suddenly gone from having every hour of their days scheduled with school, activities, homework, and carpooling to having little or no structured school time and no activities. They’ve gone from barely seeing their parents and siblings to spending hours every day together. They’ve gone from having no spare time to read a book to finishing an entire series in a weekend.
This upheaval has understandably caused a lot of chaos and anxiety for my students as they struggle to separate out facts from rumors and create a new daily routine for themselves. I’ve tried to hold some of this anxiety for them and tell them what I do know (see last week’s post). And after they’ve had a little time to feel whatever they’re feeling, I’m encouraging them to try to change the narrative and look at these new spaces as opportunities instead of gaps.
At Collegewise, one quality we’ve always urged our students to develop is their initiative. We often talk about the difference between a summer internship you got because your mom talked to someone she works with and one you got because you did your own research, found a company whose work you were excited about, and emailed them yourself. Those are two very different stories to share in an essay or an interview, and they demonstrate very different qualities that a student will bring to a college community.
Colleges have always loved students with curiosity and initiative, drive and flexibility. And in this current moment of fluctuating norms and daily cancellations, that’s exactly what is called for. So while you might have been planning to do a research program on a college campus, now you have the chance to design your own experiment and run it in your kitchen or your closet or your garage. While you might have been hoping to work in a political campaign office and go canvassing door-to-door, now you have the opportunity to make record numbers of phone calls for a candidate you believe in. While you might have expected to go to football practice twice a day, now you have the opportunity to rediscover a hobby you love that you haven’t had time for these past few years.
There is great loss in this moment and today’s students are being asked to make enormous compromises. But, as with many situations, our ability to stay nimble will be the thing that helps us through this crisis and helps us thrive on the other side. The most important thing is your health and the health of the people around you. But if you find yourself sitting at home with nothing to do, instead of hitting “Next Episode” on that new Netflix show, think about one way you could take initiative.