Pandemic time well-spent pays many dividends for students

Dennis Kelly - Contributing columnist

Has your high school reduced or restricted your participation in student organizations and other extracurricular activities during the COVID-19 pandemic? Maybe your classes are presented in a hybrid or online model?

Have these circumstances of the pandemic, coupled with not being able to work part-time jobs, increased your amount of free or leisure time?

If so, I urge you to not consider this as idle or lost time, or simply an excuse to increase your gaming and social media activity. Use it to make yourself stand out in a crowd of college applicants as you prepare for your future.

Many collegebound high school juniors and seniors struggle to explain to college representatives what they are doing during the pandemic. Schools’ curtailment of outside-the-classroom activities is certainly understandable, as is parents having health and safety concerns with regard to their teenagers working and otherwise placing themselves in direct contact with the public.

So, how can you make this luxury of time work best for you?

I wish to address some alternative approaches to answering the question, “So how are you keeping busy during the pandemic?” My examples for this article will intentionally exclude work, volunteerism, extracurricular school activities and, of course, gaming and social media.

Compile a list of novels, books, articles, films, artwork, stage plays/musicals or television shows that you have particularly enjoyed or have a special meaning for you. Jot down the themes of this art and literature, why you selected them, what you learned from experiencing them and why these things are important to you.

Perhaps, you found them particularly enlightening or you identified with a certain character or it elicited in you a strong sense of empathy, attraction or identity.

In other words, be able to discuss how these helped you understand yourself or the world better or might prepare you for your upcoming college endeavors and, in essence, your future.

What accomplishments can you add to your portfolio?

Colleges like to see applicants exceeding the basic requirements of simply a high school education. Why not consider learning a new skill or craft during the pandemic?

YouTube videos offer insight and how-to instruction on everything from playing a musical instrument and woodworking to identifying raptors and other birds. Become an authority by researching a subject or notable person that you’re interested in.

Why not try something that, under normal circumstances, you would have never considered in the pre-pandemic past?

Your ability to be interesting and engaging while interacting with others — whether in a casual conversation with a stranger, a job interview setting, a college admission visit or a myriad of other circumstances throughout your lifetime — will, in the words of industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, become key in “winning friends and influencing people.”

The transition from high school to college can be exciting and enjoyable, but it also will present you with challenges and opportunities for personal growth and self-realization.

I urge you to become an active participant in navigating the process to becoming the best version of yourself.

Dennis M. Kelly, a nationally known enrollment administrator, has been presenting columns in the Wilmington News Journal on navigating the college search process as a service to local families. Kelly is the senior vice president for enrollment management at Wilmington College.

Dennis Kelly

Contributing columnist