How to shine on your college
when everything’s cancelled

College applications. Many of the extracurricular activities that build strong resumes are disappearing because of COVID-19. But your college application can still shine. Experts from Signature College Counseling and College Mode Consulting, both serving students in the tristate-area, explain how.

| 09 Sep 2020 | 03:30

By Molly Colgan

High school is going to look very different this year, in ways that will make building a resume for college a challenge. The extracurricular activities that are the building blocks of a strong resume are now up in the air: sports like wrestling or cheer may be deemed too high risk, chorus will mean singing with masks on, wind instruments may be cut out of the band.

Some kids are opting out of in-class instruction altogether. Others are attending on limited hybrid schedules. And there’s always the possibility that all activities will be lost if school ends up getting shut down again.

But even in the age of COVID-19, it’s still possible to build a strong resume for your college application.

Liz Levine, owner of Signature College Counseling, says there’s no one type of activity — extracurriculars, working, volunteering — that is more important than another.

“It’s not about checking all the boxes,” she said. “It’s about doing what you enjoy and doing more of it. Being involved is important.”

Signature recommends building a resume as you go, so that when it comes time to filling out your college application, much of the work has already been done.

What are some of the things students can list on those resumes?

Their part-time jobs, for one. Volunteer work, either in person or remotely, is another. Some students are volunteering with political campaigns. Tech-savvy students are helping their teachers overcome remote-learning obstacles.

Lynn Lillian and Sharon Davis, who own College Mode Consulting in Warwick, N.Y., recommend personal projects as a way to stay busy during COVID-19, and to showcase interests and development on college applications.

“What colleges are looking for is the growth students experienced in high school, how they’ll continue that growth in college, and how that particular institution fits with that student’s goals and values and priorities,” Lillian said. “Just because you can’t do debate club doesn’t mean that you can’t express or explore something similar about who you are.”

Some examples of these personal projects?

“We’ve had some students do things as varied as picking up the piano again after not playing since they were little kids, and playing for their grandparents who are stuck at home during Covid,” said Lillian. “We’ve had other students who, for instance, are taking Chinese. Their summer goal was to get more conversational in that language. So they took every Duolingo Chinese lesson available to them. All of those things speak to a student’s interest, their values, their character, and their engagement in growing as human beings and learners.”

And although personal projects are a little different from the pre-Covid extracurriculars, they offer students a unique opportunity to look inward to create a project that is most important to their individual interests, goals, and skills.

Pre-COVID-19, it was “very easy to get caught up in the extracurricular just for the sake of the extracurricular,” said David. “Versus now, you’re doing something that’s actually an authentic expression of what your interests and values are.”

What some local students are doing:


Becoming more fluent in a language by taking Duolingo classes online

Learning an instrument and playing for loved ones or the elderly (from a safe distance) during COVID-19

Volunteering with political campaigns, virtually or in person

Keeping an exercise journal, setting goals, and tracking improvement over time (i.e., working on your vertical jump and measuring the change)

Taking online classes in areas of interest or potential study down the road

Getting online certifications in areas of interest — such as coaching a certain sport —to allow for future volunteer opportunities that may not be available otherwise

Finding new projects that correlate with their interests, like a future engineering student who is building a deck from scratch

Starting an online business to raise money for charity

What colleges are looking for is the growth students experienced in high school, how they’ll continue that growth in college, and how that particular institution fits with that student’s goals and values and priorities.”