Running a virtual counseling business, I’ve always experienced the ups and downs of being in front of a computer screen all day long. To some, working from home might seem like hitting the jackpot; however, it really does come with a catch. As I often tell my friends during our conversations, it’s so easy to get carried away in a virtual work environment that I end up finding myself stuck in front of my computer for hours. There are nights when I force myself to leave my office at 10:30 or 11:00 at night. When the pandemic hit and the whole world turned virtual, it was already my normal, so I really had no problems adjusting to the “new normal.” It hasn’t been so easy for everyone else, though. I’ve been observing more and more students who are trying to juggle everything (school work, college applications, virtual college tours, tests, etc…) while one-on-one with a laptop. I’m hearing about more cases of anxiety, which has urged me to write this blog post. There are ways to deal with those negative feelings, and I’ll share some quick tips here.
- Don’t try to do everything! As you’re navigating the college admissions process, you’ll be receiving invites from the colleges on your list about an upcoming virtual tour, an information session, a webinar, or a chance to connect with an Admissions Officer. Each of those opportunities sounds lovely and too good to miss, right? I know… However, if you have a lot of other commitments on the same day, it’s OK to skip those events. In a normal year, I’d definitely encourage my students to take advantage of every little opportunity to attend them (actually the more, the better), but this year I strongly believe that we can all cut you some slack. If you have to miss those events due to school, work, or family commitments, so what? There are other ways to connect with the colleges and demonstrate interest. Locate the name and contact information of your Admissions Representative who is responsible for your state/area. Reach out to them. Write a short but sweet email saying that you haven’t had a chance to attend the recent admissions event but do have a couple of questions about your intended major, the college, or campus life. That’s a very easy and stress-free task that can be completed within minutes at your availability.
- Don’t be too harsh on yourself! As we all know, we’re headed for a very harsh winter due to the interruptions caused by COVID-19. Everyday we wake up to more restrictions regarding schools, athletic events, and extracurricular activities. Lara, my daughter who is a high school freshman, has recently been informed that her school has decided to go back to remote learning with no in-person classes, activities, or sports. Although this was nowhere near the high school experience she envisioned, she’s well aware that she needs to move on and make the best of her time at home. There are so many day-to-day activities that can be easily done from home. The good news is that you’re probably already doing them, but I bet you aren’t aware that they would be recognized as activities. How many of you are taking care of a younger sibling while your parents are working? How many of you are helping your parents with cooking, doing the dishes, or doing the laundry? How many of you are taking the dog for a walk at scheduled intervals throughout the day? If you aren’t involved in family responsibilities that much, then think of something you’ve always wanted to do. A new skill? Learn it. A passion? Develop it. As long as it comes from within and you can joyfully write an essay about it, by all means, do it. Even if you feel like you’re imprisoned at home with no meaningful activities to present to the colleges, trust me; you’re already doing a lot before even realizing it. If you don’t believe me, just keep a diary and jot down everything you’ve done that day before you go to bed. Do this for a month and see the common activities that occur regularly. There you go! You’re more active than you think!!!
- Log off at a certain time of the day! Zoom fatigue is real. Sitting in front of countless of classes and trying to stay focused while your teachers are asking you to actively join class discussions takes a toll on you without you even realizing it. Turn off all the electronic devices (including your phones) for 30 minutes a day. Just do something totally different that doesn’t involve looking at a screen. Find your own niche. For Lara, it’s baking. Maybe for you, it’s exercising. For me, it’s reading. Whatever it is that’ll help you relax and not think about school or college applications, just do it.
- Make time for your friends! I never saw myself as the social butterfly before the pandemic. I was rather an introvert who liked keeping it to myself, buried in my work. I’ve recently realized how further away this was from the truth! Human beings are wired to be social after all, so even those of us who prefer our own shelves need to connect with others to be able to satisfy our basic need to communicate. This might not be the best time to hang out with friends in person, but you can always stay connected. Ask a friend about his/her day or just call your best friend to tell him/her how much you’ve missed hanging out. I know going all out with your emotions isn’t your thing, but try it. You might be pleasantly surprised about the outcome. Remember that whatever you’re going through, your friend is already going through it, as well. Everyone feels lonely these days, but you don’t have to. Reach out. Speak. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation.
In a world stricken with despair, the only way to get through this is to take breaks, give yourself a chance to rest, and acknowledge how far you’ve come. If you’re like many other teenagers, you’re probably being too harsh on yourself. Stop it now. The circumstances you’re seeing are out of your control. Don’t dwell on the negative; focus on the positive. Think of ways of how you can make this process much easier for you. Don’t listen to what others have to say. Just go with your own judgement. You know you more than anyone else does. Treat yourself kindly. You’re worth it. I’m really sorry that it has to be this way, but I know that it’ll get better. While you patiently wait for the sunny skies, make self-care your priority. You matter. Your existence matters. Your voice matters. I believe everybody is born with a purpose. Find yours. Then, you’ll be complete and at peace with yourself. Love yourself. You deserve it.
Wishing y’all much sanity in these insane times…
Burcak Deniz Cakir
Independent Educational Consultant, Founder, and President | EdMission Possible
Burcak Deniz Cakir has a B.A. in Foreign Language Education, an M.A. in English Language Teaching, and an M.B.A., all of which have laid the solid foundation for her professional experiences as an educator. She has completed the College Counseling Program at UCLA, which is known to be the most prestigious certificate program in the profession. She has previously taught English as a Foreign/Second Language (EFL/ESL) in Turkey and in the U.S. at Virginia Tech, Harcum College, Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick Campuses), and Pace University. Having taught EFL/ESL at the college level for over 20 years, Burcak can communicate effectively with college-age students from different countries. She is bilingual in Turkish and English. Her extensive experience with international students from many countries including but not limited to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and China has given her the opportunity to understand their unique problems that domestic students may not be facing throughout the college admissions process, such as but not limited to extra testing requirements (TOEFL, IELTS), the translation of high school transcripts and recommendation letters, different financial forms and statements required, visa issues, being homesick, culture shock, etc.
Burcak is an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and a Voting Member of the International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC). She currently lives in Edison, New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and her four-legged son. In her free time, she can be found spending time with her family, reading (lots!) about college admissions and college essays, watching her favorite movies, getting lost in design magazines, and decorating her house.