Suggest your child enroll in a college class online, she said, or aid librarians by transcribing historical documents from home. Parents can talk with their children about what interests them, then encourage them to create a project, like a website or a course for their peers, around that topic, Ms. Daryanani said.
Other experts caution against pushing too hard on teens already struggling with vast changes in their lives. One way to gauge that is to think about how much you used to have to push your kid before the pandemic, said Regine Galanti, a Long Island psychologist and author of “Anxiety Relief for Teens.” “If you are someone who didn’t push, and now your teen needs pushing, there may be other dynamics going on here,” she said.
One silver lining: This moment may be an opportunity for an “equal playing field,” said Warren Quirett, an admissions counselor at a Virginia boarding school and co-leader of the African-American Special Interest Group for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. That’s because affluent families cannot give their children an advantage by paying for expensive camps and experiences, since “it’s all been canceled,” he said.
Urge your student instead to pick up a new skill, or increase their involvement in their community — anything that will pique their interest and enrich their lives, he said.
Mr. Selingo said college admissions officers are going to understand that this is not a normal year. They’ll be “really looking for a mind-set,” he said. “They want students who are creative. They are going to be asking, ‘How did students respond to this pandemic?’”
But be forewarned: with other markers of achievement in short supply, colleges will focus on what is available. “I’ve been telling my seniors,” Ms. Daryanani said, “to really pay attention to their grades this semester.”
Hoping to generate some excitement for next year, Michelle Johnson and her husband took Emma to visit Northern Michigan University in late September. To ensure social distancing, the admissions office was limiting in-person campus tours to only five students at a time, and the slots for that day were already filled. But they walked themselves around the campus, the town and the Lake Superior shoreline. They saw hardly any students; those they did see wore masks.