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Back to School?

Hello fellow parents, and welcome!

The topic du jour is school next fall: college, high school, hell let’s throw elementary school in there. Lots of hand wringing among parents everywhere and mind-bending by every school community troubleshooting solutions. It’s unfeasible to send our children safely back to school. The prospect of not sending them back is miserable.

As schools announce their plans for fall, along with back-up plans and disclaimers about how these plans may be canceled dependent upon the unknown trajectory of COVID-19, here we are, us parents, with our opinions and pain and hopes for our children. We speculate about our children’s future and feel it all—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, all the stages of grief. I suggest we land somewhere on the spectrum of acceptance and try to live there for a while.

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, suffering extreme financial struggles, or combatting sinister discrimination, I am so so sorry. There is no vaccine for that type of hardship. If you are grieving the loss of control, you are allowed! But spending all of our time worrying about the uncontrollable works like a gunshot to the foot (your own foot, in case you weren’t following). Wouldn’t it be a relief to think like a teenager with an abbreviated future event horizon and let all (or some of) this anxiety go for the rest of July and at least half of August?

A mantra for this time of uncertainty: Take action on what you can control and let the rest go.

Here’s what you can control on the topic of school next fall and college admissions:

  • Pay attention but not too much attention to schools’ plans for the fall. Those evolving plans will change 10 more times from now through the designated first day of classes. It will drive you certifiably insane if you cling to the notion that you, personally, can make a back-to-school plan right now that will actually happen. This is where staying informed and acceptance intersect.
  • Virtually visit colleges. Computer generated tours are not like the real deal, but they’re not that different from visiting empty campuses in summer. See all my tips about off-roading on college visits in College Admissions Cracked. Also follow the timeline in the book, which is more or less as usual.
  • Help your child organize efforts toward completing college essays and applications. You can’t write it for them, but if your child’s a rising senior, you can offer the services of your highly developed frontal lobe to make up for your kid’s deficiencies when it comes to time management. And you can solicit professional help with essay and application writing if needed. I’ve got your back.
  • Assume the SAT and ACT are never going to happen. They might happen, and if it makes your family feel better to invite an SAT tutor into your life, no judgements here. Just stay six feet apart, wear masks, and know that if your child never gets to take or retake the test, they’re in good company. For the majority, prioritize all else about your kid’s college admissions process above test scores. That’s what colleges are doing.
  • Vote locally and nationally. It will be harder in the midst of pandemic, but please exercise your right to vote anyway when the time comes.
  • Take advantage of summer weather to engage safely with other humans outdoors. My doctor advised me to prepare individual snacks on separate plates and invite a couple of friends to my backyard for a socially distant glass of wine. The wine was part of my doctor’s prescription, so I’m going with it. I pass this prescription on to you.

Some advice above I’m qualified to give, and some I may or may not have accurately construed from my doctor. Regardless, please stay well, my friends, and if you cannot control it, do what you must to let it go, at least for the time being.



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