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April 1, 2020

Covid 19 and College Admissions: Uncertainty and How to Cope

“Humans are adept at deception. We deceive others to our intentions, our beliefs and our actions. But more impactful are the ways we deceive ourselves.”

-Claire Fox


These are interesting times. I cannot think of a more traumatic or transformational period in my life than right now. Initially, we heard of an uncommonly virulent virus outbreak in Wuhan, China, infecting thousands and quarantining half of China’s 1.4 billion people. Then American company supply chains were disrupted with parts for Apple computers, iPhones, and countless other products in short supply due to their reliance on Chinese manufacturers.

Half a world away in China the news was real, but not quite surreal. But now here in America school classes are suspended. SAT, ACT and AP exams are postponed. Families are ordered to stay home, and classes are online. The Federal and State governments order us to stay at home and practice social distancing to reverse the spread of the novel coronavirus. Spring sports, proms and graduations; all cancelled. Students are on edge. Parents are nervous. Teachers are anxious. Global society is coping with a new world order with dire health and economic consequences. What should the college aspiring student do?

In this blog, we will discuss how juniors about to enter the application season can cope with anxiety and thrive through the adversity created by the all too real Covid 19 health emergency.


The Discipline of Perception

Your first challenge is to see the world as it truly is, objectively as per the facts. For example: school classes, exams and activities are cancelled. Next you must keep your composure, stay calm and try not to sensationalize the facts. If you do, you’re likely to get too emotional and panic. This leads to excessive anxiety and poor decision making.

Miyamoto Masashi, one of history’s greatest swordsmen, was able to defeat every opponent he faced and often multiple sword-wielding attackers all at once. Miyamoto proposed using your observing eye, not your perceiving eye. The way to “steady your nerves” is to assess the facts. In this case, Miyamoto considered his strengths, their weaknesses and devised a strategy to win. He could have decided, as most people do when life is chaotic and the future uncertain, panic. The issue is that panicking is often ten times worse than the original problem. Focusing on the core problem allows you not to lose your composure and prevents you from making emotional mistakes. Staying calm and dealing with the facts allows you to calmly address the matter, stay composed and solve the problem. This is what world-class athletes Roger Federer (tennis) and Lebron James (basketball) do in championships. They get nervous. But, they are never paralyzed with fear. Whether it is practice or championship point, the mental preparation is the same. It is just another shot.
Focus on what can be controlled, not on what can’t be controlled; as a result, you will be in total control.


The Discipline of Action

The more objectively you view the world, the more accurately you’ll interpret the world and decide on the best actions to take. In other words, the right perception leads to the right action!

Next, practice persistence! Just because plan A didn’t work doesn’t mean all is lost. The vast majority of average high school students don’t get into Harvard College. But, they got into a Harvard graduate school because they made prudent adjustments, worked creatively and took the initiative, and performed. But, most importantly they saw the world accurately and kept calm.


“Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the things you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”

-Thomas Huxley


The Discipline of the Will

Finally, in difficult, stressful, and burdensome times, when there is no playbook, we must “go with the flow” and strive for something bigger than ourselves. With regard to will, we must accept our fate while demanding that we be diligent, persistent and perseverant. The goal is almost secondary. We must believe in the process and ask ourselves “is what I am doing right now necessary.” Just as important, ask yourself, what did I learn today? And how can I improve tomorrow? The will toward self-discipline, self-independence and self-reliance, not to mention self-improvement, cannot be overstated.

Yes, these are uncertain and burdensome times. Things are not going according to plan. You can decide to be a coward or courageous! The choice is yours. In every obstacle, there is an opportunity. Find it!


“If it is endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining!