Second semester junior year is a time that most high schoolers dread, yet acknowledge is essential for their futures. Imagine this: It’s March, you’ve just taken your SAT and are prepared to dive into Advanced Placement test prep. You spend every brunch at Peet’s Coffee chugging your usual caffeinated drink in a desperate attempt to regain lost energy. You’re excited about spring break, a week packed with college visits at universities that have caught your eye. If you’re an athlete, you’re using this year to show off your athletic skills, hoping to draw the attention of college scouts. As summer approaches, you’ll start your common app essays and the college application process.
Like many other juniors, this was my plan for second semester. However, with the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 and the consequent school closures and shelter-in-place orders, intricately-planned junior years have been thrown off course, events have been postponed indefinitely and summer programs have been canceled.
Now, everything has moved online. Long sit-down AP exams are digital and can be completed from the comfort of your own home. Tests and quizzes for classes can be taken on your couch or on your bed. While some may think of this as a relief — with many accommodations granted to us due to the unfortunate circumstances — it isn’t. This is is an incredibly important time of our high school careers, and for many of my peers, this year is crucial for discovering hidden interests and developing into the people we wish to be in the future. Personally, I’ve begun to discover a hidden passion for psychology and astronomy, but have now lost many opportunities to fully connect with these subjects as well as the teachers who introduced me to them.
Going into this school year, I was ready to commit myself to academics and success. When I was a three sport athlete during my first two years of high school, I found minimal time to focus on schoolwork, limiting my ability to reach my academic goals. This was my year to step up my game and prove to colleges what I am truly capable of — keeping in mind that colleges value an upwards trajectory. To fully accomplish this, I ended up quitting basketball, a sport that I truly loved, in order to open up a large amount of free time dedicated to studying for my upcoming SAT in March, blissfully unaware of what would come next.
When my SAT was canceled the day before my test date as a result of widespread campus shutdowns, I felt a loss of hope. This was the first part of my junior year that did not go according to plan. Then, on March 13, an announcement revealed that Paly would be closing its campus for four weeks. It came as a shock to me, realizing that it would be the last time I would see many of my friends and classmates.
At first, my twin sister and I felt stuck and a little unmotivated. But we kept pushing through the year, keeping up with our online learning and researching potential colleges. This was still our second semester junior year, even though it looked a little different than expected. We decided to quit living in the past — hoping for schools to reopen and events to be rescheduled — and decided to make the most of the present.
Online learning, for now, is the new normal, and with it comes a couple of hardships. Most students have to learn the materials on their own, and sure, you can schedule zoom meetings with teachers for help, but you don’t get that same in-class experience. Though at times I struggle to actually learn anything without the in-class support of my teachers, it’s all we have at the moment.
Even as someone who tends to complain about school a lot, the current state of our lives under the shelter-in-place has taught me to stop taking my education for granted.
On the bright side, I’m completing my required online learning work and continuing my college search, all from the comfort of my home. It’s actually somewhat nice, being able to grab a snack whenever I wish, working at my own pace, going for a bike ride as a brain break and just following a personalized schedule.
Even as someone who tends to complain about school a lot, the current state of our lives under the shelter-in-place has taught me to stop taking my education for granted. My schooling has always been an afterthought — a mandatory part of my daily routine — but I never stop to think about the joy that it actually brings me. When I think about it, there are many aspects of school that I miss. One major aspect that I’ll miss are the current seniors. These very seniors, many of which I’ve grown to love and admire, are leaving the Paly community, off to do bigger and better things. I’m sad that I wasn’t able to give them a proper goodbye.
The novel coronavirus has done a lot of damage in the world, taking the lives of many, many people every day and it is very important to continue to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations, to help slow the spread of the deadly respiratory virus. Although college admissions are an incredibly stressful subject right now, it is important to remember the bigger picture in this global pandemic. People everywhere are facing extreme hardships during this time, making it even more important to support one another. I am thankful to be a part of an incredibly supportive community at Paly and part of a junior class known for being a tight-knit group of ambitious and spirited students. We’re all going through this together and we’ll all make it out of this as more mature, appreciative and genuine people.