Over two months ago now, the first messages about schools closing in Asia started reaching me. Back then, all we (the rest of the Admissions Board and I) discussed was what we might do for students who could not be in class for a considerable amount of time and therefore might not perform to the best of their abilities on exams. Only weeks later, a professional conference in Asia was cancelled. Fast forward a couple of week more, a recruitment trip to Italy was cancelled. By now, all of our in person recruitment activities for Spring have been cancelled. No more conversations with prospective students and parents at their schools. No more in-person workshops to train counselors on UCRs educational model and admissions process. No more April open day or in-person visits possibilities. No more in-person admissions interviews. So, now what?
Earlier this week, the UK announced that A-level examinations will not be held in May and June. The International Baccalaureate Organization and College Board (two large international diploma rewarding organizations) are still considering their options. Here in the Netherlands, it is as of yet unsure whether the Centraal Examen will take place as usual. Where does that leave us? Will we have diplomas to evaluate students on? How about next year? Will we evaluate students based on their Junior year grades? Will we start accepting predicted grades for the curricula that offer them? What are we doing with students who cannot sit English language tests required for admission normally? In short, now what?
The honest answer to these questions is that we do not quite know yet. The situation changes every day, which makes it hard to come up with long term answers. But something is happening that gives me a great deal of hope. The international college counseling and admissions community is stepping up. The community and togetherness in my ‘tribe’ is remarkable. Earlier this week, a number of colleagues from Asia hosted a webinar on the ‘reality of virtuality’. They shared best practices, resources and, yes also some horror stories, from their experience of teaching online for the last six to eight weeks. Earlier this month, the company U-haul started offering free storage space to students having to leave their dorms on US campuses. A colleague in Germany had to move her college fair online. She collected webinar/video links from all universities originally signed up to participate, created an overview with QR codes, and shared it with any other school who wanted to use it. Several organizations have started organizing free online fairs and events.
As I adjust to the reality of not being on the road, not seeing my colleagues, of being behind the screen most of the day, of fighting with my husband as to who gets to be in a video conference at what time, and as I attempt to prevent my cat from dashing around breaking my house as I present webinar sessions, I am strengthened by the sense that we are all in this together. We are learning and adjusting to this new normal together. As long as we can keep that up, I trust everything will be fine in the end. And when times are a bit rough, I am reminded of a quote in one of my favorite books, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden: “We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course.” I know we will find a new course. As long as we take care of each other and ourselves, get creative, are flexible, and, most importantly, do it together.