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Life Interruptus and Planning for the Future

I've been thinking a lot about one of my favorite movies lately, Ben Stiller's version of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," based on James Thurber's 1939 short essay. I keep returning to this movie for reasons beyond the soundtrack and the visual escapism which transports me to Greenland (fun fact: it was filmed in Iceland), which may be my own version of managing a "stay-cation." What keeps pulling me to watch it is the underlying optimistic message that life is not linear, and the affirmation that a life interrupted does not translate to a dead-end. While some folks may see Stiller's movie and Thurber's essay as being about distractions or daydreams, I can't help but see imagination, optimism, and possibility. These ideas become more important as I take in the recent daily news and its impact on higher and secondary education, and students. I could be watching movies offering a more dystopian vision of what the future holds, but I prefer to look for ways to respond proactively, whether that may require developing skills for more meaningful and productive online experiences, or creating more internal (rather than external) rhythms to guide my days and work. I am also eager to support students as they learn new skills, new ways to approach the world, and new routines, all without giving up their dreams and their optimism, which may include recognizing what is temporary and what also may be an opportunity hidden in the unexpected. Reading the recent post from Rick Clark, "Change is the Only Constant," is another helpful reminder that every year there is something new in college admissions. Scandals, waitlists, schools adding Early Decision II deadlines, FAFSA introducing new timing, and IRS retrieval tools, are just a few reminders that what we think are sure things in college admissions may not always be the case. What we can rely on is our ability to stay nimble and informed. Additionally, developing reasonable expectations about what a college means when they switch to test-optional and who that applies to, or what an admit rate is and how that applies to individual students, (e.g. athletes, legacies, first-gen, tuba players, or state-resident) will be important in the upcoming application cycle. This also means that students need to seek out colleges that have programs, courses, and environments that support their aspirations and interests. It is hard to predict precisely what the upcoming admission cycle will look like. It may be reasonable to expect that with major shifts for standardized testing and colleges moving to online learning, the upcoming year may look different, and the return to what has felt like normal expectations and traditions may be delayed. Still, every day involves looking towards the future whether that is for the upcoming ten minutes, hours, days, months, or years. Right now, it's too early to predict what summer or fall will be like, but this is a good time to explore alternative summer plans. Whether that means looking for online or local experiences, it is important to pay attention to how colleges are responding to current and future students, and to reaffirm your aspirations while knowing that there are many roads that will lead to fulfilling them.

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