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Novel Ways of Adding Value to College Application Resumes

So many of your plans have been up-ended, and the light at the end of the tunnel is hazy at its best! High school experiences have morphed into new forms and what comes to mind is the parable of the Blind Men and an Elephant – with the educators, politicians, scientists, businessmen, and of course the students taking on the role of blind men trying to figure out the elusive “elephant,”; in this case Covid19, and all things related. However, as the scrutiny and the quest for a resolution continues, here’s what high school students can do to reinvent themselves to mitigate the situation. Youth after all, if nothing else, is resilient and imaginative. Find new ways to engage, learn and create opportunities.

Many college admissions officers are also caught in the midst of the chaos and are open to new ideas. They know that no student can be penalized for an extracurricular coming to a grinding halt. In many cases, 10-11 years of commitment often culminating in world class events and competitions have disappeared. No student can be blamed for this. However, if we try to peer into their heads and see how they evaluate activities, we know that they are looking at attributes such as diligence, creativity, commitment, and skill level. So let’s try to traverse this unprecedented time and give credence to these attributes. Students can continue on their journey by taking a detour. Just a small change in direction can enable students to reinvent themselves.

Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, let’s look at as something different that you can do instead:

  • Is there something you could start? You could be a quick go-to-person in the neighborhood for quick tasks such as mail drop off, yard work, dog walking, or a delivery service if you drive.

  • If you have basic (or more) coding skills, do some home-based coding for nonprofits through organizations such as Code for Social Good, Benetech, or DonateCode.

  • Teach the elderly how to use FaceTime, Zoom, or other apps that help people feel connected. If you’ve always worked with this demographic, then you could change the mode via existing organizations such as

  • Help people with reading disabilities through BookShare.

  • If you are tech-savvy, reach out to friends, teachers and other professionals to offer your services. Some small businesses who can’t hire interns can benefit with your help. This also gives you an added benefit to see things from a business perspective and learn from them.

  • Teach anything you’re good at. Post it on Instagram live or start your YouTube channel, and maybe become a bit of a star!

  • With elections round the corner, volunteer with local political organizations to increase voter turnout through Rock the Vote and Postcards to Voters, which you can write at home. Contact your local Democratic or Republican campaign offices about how to help, by stuffing mailers, calling voters or helping with social media “campaigns.”

  • Make medical masks and face coverings with Masks Now.

  • Sign up to tutor online or start your own tutoring service with other students who need help. School on Wheels (tutor homeless kids), Quarantutors, Teens Give, VIPkid (teach English) provide opportunities that can help you get started.

  • Take a moment to reflect every day and you’ll be surprised at your own creative energy. Take photos, document change and chronicle the pandemic. You’ll have a lot to write in your essays in the least, or to hold on to something for posterity, at best.

  • Keep a journal and self-publish a memoir of your experiences during this time. Perhaps interview neighbors or family members and write short stories about how people are coping, and submit them for publication in local news outlets or to writing contests. Submittable has a list of publications seeking new work, including some visual art.

  • Write that novel, poetry collection, screenplay, or cookbook you have been imagining.

  • If you love custom shoe designs and want to help win $50,000 for your school’s art program, recruit your design team to compete in next year’s Vans Custom Culture.

  • If you are an artist, keep making those pieces that you can add to your portfolio.

  • Launch a business on Etsy, eBay, or Amazon selling something you make. Or try selling unused clothing, toys, or other things you want to get rid of on Mercari, Poshmark, or Depop. Maybe your business involves helping your neighbors by planting vegetable gardens, walking dogs, or small maintenance projects you can do outside while physical distancing.

  • If technology is your thing, can you help solve COVID-19 problems by 3-D printing medical masks or other equipment, or developing an app that tracks the spread of the virus or identifies people who have recovered. Maybe research and blog about how certain companies have adapted or struggled during the pandemic because of technology.

  • How about politics and influencing the conversation? Write an opinion piece on how different levels of government, from neighborhood councils to federal policymakers, are responding, and what you think they should have done differently. The OpEd Project offers tips on writing such pieces, and a long list of places to submit them.

  • If you’ve always wanted to learn something and never had the time, take a course now. Coursera, Udemy, EdX, Harvard, MOOC, and Great Course all offer new classes on various subjects. Or access the free resources of OpenCulture for ebooks and audiobooks, or on TEDTalks. The Facebook group, Amazing Educational Resources, assembled a comprehensive list of resources companies are offering for free during this crisis.

  • Learn coding at Code for Free, Codecademy, Google, Sophia and many more.

  • Take your foreign language to the next level with Duolingo, Babbel, Pimsleur, or Rosetta Stone, and practice with real people in Language Bird Chirp Rooms.

  • Learn Excel at Excel Tutorial at

  • Reach out to professionals in your social circle and interview them. Ask them about their core tasks and what a typical day looks like. What are the pros and cons of their job as they see it? These can be excellent virtual job shadowing experiences. You get the idea. Use this time to break away from established norms, try new things, and own your own actions. If you’re worried about validation, know that anything you do earnestly and with passion, you will do an excellent job at it. And this will not be overlooked by colleges.

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