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With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting absolutely every facet of our lives, and forever changing many of the processes we have grown used to, the way in which students are preparing for the transition to college is no exception. Colleges are shifting plans and expectations to weather the storm so that students have an opportunity to receive the full circle collegiate experience that they hoped for, pre-pandemic.

The good news about these shifts is that at this point, most institutions have had the opportunity to test drive their plans and take note of what is beneficial and what does not fit, as far as everything a student could wonder about. Help is available to guide you through each new experience from the application process, to graduation, and every step in between. In many ways, the hyper-focus on the student experience as well as the physical and mental safety of the student has resulted in an enhanced overall opportunity to receive not just a good education but a good personal experience as well.

Uncover Your Resources

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If there was ever a time to be overly enthusiastic about asking for help, the timeframe during which you are preparing for college is it. Do not be shy about taking advantage of every resource available to you both on and off-campus. Be sure to also start the process of creating your support network before you even fill out your first application. High school counselors have a plethora of experience in helping students move from high school to college and they can help you draw up a plan of attack that suits you uniquely.

With a significant portion, if not all, of your coursework likely to be online, get all your techy ducks in a row so that you do not miss important updates. College portals are all unique and specific to your school of choice. As soon as you have access to this, spend some time browsing around, click on every link, and take note of how to troubleshoot the most essential functions. Many schools will offer online tutorials or even free webinar-style classes to help teach you how to navigate their site.

Stay Connected

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Creating community in an online environment can be challenging, schools are encouraging students to push past their comfort zones and engage in online activities that will help them build relationships with their peers, professors, and classmates. Distance learning has given way to an increased focus on the mental and emotional security and health of both students and teachers. Telehealth opportunities have become a virtual lifeboat for many students who desire that extra boost of support.

In many ways, telehealth surpasses traditional doctors’ visits regarding access, timeliness, and ease. A couple of quick clicks on a site like TimelyMD and you can get connected to a medical professional that suits your needs quicker than you can brew a cup of coffee. Not only do these sites offer appointment style support but they also have blog-style resources in a variety of topics that you can use as a guide to navigating almost any issue related to your health.

Perhaps the biggest advantage that telehealth has created for students is lifting the veil on the fact that mental health is linked to a successful collegiate experience. And that many students struggle silently to navigate their feelings and emotions during this time due to the hesitation of publicly acknowledging their struggles. Online help means that so long as you have access to the internet, you have access to help. Removing any layer of embarrassment or hesitation from the process of seeking out assistance can give cautious students the push they need to advocate for their own mental wellbeing.

Embrace the New Normal

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Many innovations that have developed as a response to the pandemic will now become standard practice even beyond the timeframe with the most concentration on this issue. Instead of viewing these changes as temporary embrace them as the new normal and readjust your expectations so that you do not only cope with them but use them as fuel to thrive in your new environment. As we approach the one-year mark from when this outbreak first rocked life as we know it, it is helpful and important to recognize that this also means that there are people who have handled this before you, and they can help. Everyone from professors to coaches, to peers have navigated the uncertain waters of the college during the COVID-19 experience, use this as a learning opportunity.

Of course, your studies are the focus of college, but there is an entire another layer to these years that you should not miss out on. Developing relationships with others, and with yourself is typical during the freshman year especially. Pandemic-related regulations will force you to get creative in engaging with campus life. So many universities have set up virtual activities that you can be a part of that extend well beyond a welcome week. It is important to remember that physical distance and social and emotional distance are two different entities. Although you may not be able to attend social engagements as former students were able to, make the effort to immerse yourself in the supplementary activities the school has created.

Discover New Career Pathways

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As you pick your classes and fine-tune your career goals, allow yourself to explore the new opportunities that have presented themselves because of this huge global change. Many employers have created new job titles and teams in their efforts to adjust to the new demands of a COVID-19 world. Remote work is now the rule whereas it used to be the exception. Businesses are identifying ways to encourage a work-life balance that might not have been as entertained had this pandemic not interrupted business as usual.

As you get into your education, take advantage of all the remote opportunities now available. Internships and eventually careers will no longer be limited to your geographical location. This opportunity is unprecedented and a welcome side effect of the pandemic. Travel for work is also something that has been significantly limited or altogether eliminated, so consider that if you find yourself curious about a specific position but because it formally would have included mandatory travel you crossed it off your list of possibilities.

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