For many, December marks the end of the calendar year. For those of us in academia, our lives revolve around the academic calendar. There is a natural ebb and flow to the school year. It is a predictability I have grown accustomed to. August contains all the excitement and hope of a new school year. September and October are a blur with conferences, college rep visits, recommendation letters, and early action applications. November brings with it a season of thanksgiving as seniors begin hearing back from colleges and UC and Cal State applications are submitted. It is the ebb and flow, the rhythm of the fall, and the pattern of each year.
And then, there is this year.
While deadlines have anchored me to some sense of “normalcy,” this year has been anything but predictable. With all the uncertainty, it’s been tough to look too far ahead. As a result, each application deadline, each holiday, has been an even sweeter milestone to celebrate. “I can’t believe we’ve made it to (insert month or holiday)” has been uttered more than once by myself and my colleagues. Each student meeting, each grade-level event, time spent in the classroom with a group of students in-person and a group online, has been reimagined. Words like, “pivot” and “unprecedented” are part of our daily vocabulary and being in two places at once (online and in person), an expectation.
As I strive to place my students first, this control freak has had to let certain things go. For example, over the past couple of months, I’ve registered for over a dozen webinars, but have only attended a handful. My apologies to the College Board. Their CSS Profile webinar the week before Thanksgiving was the latest casualty as I ended up working with students instead of participating. Those of you on the college side have created some amazing online content. There just hasn’t been enough hours in a day to view them all. Time in the classroom with students has also been fraught with the anxiety of maintaining social distance, accidentally sharing my screen at the wrong time with the students participating remotely, or ending the Zoom prematurely.
As we roll into December and celebrate the end of 2020, the ebb and flow of the academic calendar year lead my colleagues and me to wrap up regular decision deadlines with the seniors while transitioning our attention to the junior class. The juniors have many questions about their upcoming college application process. Our work with them begins with the highest COVID-positive numbers our country has seen since the pandemic began in March. We are all wondering if test-optional policies will be extended to them as test center availability remains questionable.
Yet, there is hope. Hope that only young people can bring to the college application process as they think about their future goals. There is hope in their resilience. There is hope in their joy, optimism, and conviction. They inspire me to be a better person and counselor, no matter the circumstances, and give me confidence that the future will be a brighter one than it is today. It is for them that we carry on in our profession and usher in 2021 – halfway through the school year.