Staying Focused as School Year End Approaches

Approximately 15 feet from where I currently sit are my two children. One is a high school junior, the other is in the 7th grade. It is May 4 and today marks the start of their eighth week of at-home learning. They continue to sit in front of screens and watch videos and lectures or type out essays and responses to problems, for the most part without complaint. They miss the variety that the school day provided, with every day offering some new experience different than the one before. No different than any other year, the warmer weather has them longing for a break from assigned learning. For students, teachers, administrators, and families alike – this has been a difficult two month stretch, albeit necessarily so. Everyone rightly is looking forward to the traditional summer reprieve.

It is easy for high school students and their families to get caught up in the college admissions focused questions of the day. When, where, and how will the ACT and SAT be offered again? When will colleges be open for information sessions and tours again? How will colleges evaluate my grades? What if I choose a pass/fail option (if available/an option)? All of these and more are worthwhile questions, capable of causing some level of anxiety in even the unshakable among us. But with just weeks to go, students would be far better off focusing on that within their control.

Simply stated, students can control the effort they put forth these final weeks of the school year. Take advantage of the opportunity to finish the year strong and with the best outcomes possible. Some school systems are offering students the choice of graded or pass/fail assessments at the end of the year. If it’s an option, do well and choose to be graded. While admission committees will know well the schools and systems for which pass/fail was the only option, they will likely also take note of students who chose it when a graded option was available. Even if pass/fail is the only option, a sincere effort today will provide a stronger academic foundation for classes in the years to come.

AP examinations begin on May 11. The curiosity of this year’s format notwithstanding (online, under an hour, open note, in many cases just a single question), if you are registered to take one or more you may as well put your best foot forward. Credit policies for specific scores earned have not, for the most part, changed at most institutions and thus exists still the possibility of earning meaningful college credit. Further, the resilience displayed by students who perform well on AP exams this year will surely be taken into consideration by admissions committees during review.

The grit and determination we see in the daily acts of millions of people around the world during this pandemic has been inspiring. I believe this is true of so many students as well. The mere act of plowing forward with your education with so much devastation and distraction around us is worth celebrating. Approach these final weeks of the school year with pride. Don’t worry about standardized testing, college visit schedules, application essays, and interviews – there will be time for all of this and more this summer. Focus on what you can control – the quality of your academic work. You will be rewarded not just intellectually but in the college admissions process as well.

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