The Doctor is In: Session One – Advice for Parents of HS Seniors 2020

Photo May 15, 3 14 52 PMWith my newly minted Doctor of Education (EdD) degree, I offer this advice amid the
Covid19/Coronovirus Pandemic:

Many colleges/universities are not yet sure how they are going to handle the launch of their Fall 2020 semesters … will they be on-line, will they be cancelled, will they be on campus, will they be delayed and on-campus?  And how long will they wait before making these decisions and the subsequent announcements?  Recently, the Cal State University system announced it will be on-line for the first semester.  That gave many parents a wake-up call that they may not be sending their new college students off for their exciting first semesters at college.  This caused some to reach out to me to ask for my advice.  Here is what I have shared with them:

No matter what your child’s school decides, you shouldn’t send them away to school.

First, this is their first college experience and at least 80% of the college experience happens outside the classroom—and they won’t get it sitting in their own rooms, in your home, taking classes on-line. And even if their school starts in person, they may get sent home at some point if there is an outbreak on campus. It’s too disruptive. Additionally, if school does start in person, will they have roommates?  Will Greek organizations be permitted to have Rush or have people live in the houses?  Will school sports be cancelled? Will dining halls require reservations?  Will everyone have to wear masks which inhibits the ability to get to know others? Sitting in the unknown can cause tremendous anxiety for these young adults which will not bode well academically, socially or emotionally.

Instead, look for a gap-year program that is offering cohort-based experiences.  A cohort-based model gives young adults a set of peers to connect with, learn from, hear different viewpoints from, engage with, and build relationships with.  A service-learning/justice centered gap year program teaches young adults to get outside their comfort zones, see the world through the lens of those who need allies and UpStanders.  It provides young adults a view of the world they can’t get sitting in a formal classroom.  And while most of these programs are centered on hands-on service, there is MUCH to be learned while not on site:  core issue education, root causes/systemic issues, how advocacy and policy-making can influence this issue, the ways that fundraising, non-profits and NGOs work to combat these issues, how to engage other community members and strategic partners in working towards a common good.  All of this can be accomplished while respecting physical distancing (even through on-line learning).   A young adult can gain so much from this and if mid-year it’s safe to travel to on-site programs, they are already embedded with their community and the learning!  (Note: I am currently working to research a list of programs that will be set up for this model and will share once it is curated.)

Second, take General Education requirements through a community college on-line. It’s often significantly cheaper than the university/college tuition they are enrolled in and allows them to hit the ground running in classes for their major and electives when they do get to campus.  Also, the instruction is often with smaller numbers than in large universities for these Gen Eds.  Just be sure they are taken with an accredited community college and that the university they plan on attending will take the transfer from that school.

Third, before WWIII happens in your home, sit down together and talk about new age-appropriate boundaries, responsibilities and expectations.  After all, you have a college student now living at home.  Remember that if physical distancing requirements lift and it’s safe for them to be out and socializing with friends, having a curfew isn’t appropriate for a college student. AND on the flip side, they need to be doing their own laundry, some of their own cooking, making their beds, buying snacks with their money.  Work on the life skills they would be implementing in college – their own time management, their own study schedule, their own quality control for homework, etc.

This is for sure an incredibly uncertain time in the world, but as the adults guiding our young adults’ lives, we can help them set a course that will be just as productive and meaningful (if not moreso) instead of a year wasted or a year sitting in anxiety of what might happen to their schooling.


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