boy on bed studying on laptop

by Sara Calvert-Kubrom, former admissions officer at Lewis & Clark College

As in-person summer camps, pre-college programs, travel, internships, sports training, and more begin to be canceled, many wonder “what next?” First, we need to remember that colleges will all take these extraordinary circumstances into consideration when evaluating applications for admission. Accept that it is ok to slow down. There are, however, many enriching ways teens can use this time to positively impact their community, grow academically and personally, and continue to thoughtfully prepare for college.

This article provides examples of actions that can be taken from home that are both enriching and will strengthen future college applications.


Find ways to connect your pre-COVID activities and passions to a way to serve your community.

  • Ask your high school counselor if anyone in your community needs academic tutoring that could be conducted in a video meeting. In addition to school-specific tutoring programs, there are extensive non-profits supporting low-income and first-generation college-bound students that your counselor may be able to connect you with.
  • Are you a musician? Offer free video music/music theory lessons to children in your community.
  • Are you a member of a faith-based, cultural, or community organization? Ask if they need volunteers! Many groups have phone trees calling people to check in, provide social interaction, and assess community needs. High schoolers in my neighborhood, for example are delivering groceries to older adults, immunocompromised community members, and single parents to save them the cost of grocery delivery and reduce their exposure to COVID.
  • VolunteerMatch is a great national resource for COVID-related service opportunities.


Although online classes are often not at the top of the list of many teens I know, there are many phenomenal and affordable ways for teens to augment their academic rigor this summer. In a time when many high schools are forgoing letter grades, you can strengthen your college application by taking a graded academic summer class. Here are a few examples of places to look for online classes:

  • Many community colleges offer affordable online classes
  • UC Scout is an affordable way to take high school (many AP level) classes approved by the University of California system
  • Cornell University (and many other colleges and universities) offer online college classes for high school students that are still enrolling for this summer.

Look for academic classes linked to something you might want to study in college as an exciting way to both enhance your academic record and explore an area of interest. For example, a student interested in engineering could use the summer to advance their math or physics education, students interested in nursing could take genetics or anatomy/physiology, world-language enthusiasts could start studying a language not offered at their high school, etc.


  • Stay active and keep moving! Student athletes should work with their high school and club coaches to get home workouts and strategies to stay active and ready for the next season.
  • Students interested in playing collegiate athletics can use this time to:
    • Ask current coaches to do a video meeting to get their feedback on your potential as a college athlete and what division you could play at.
    • Fill out athletic recruitment forms on college websites and reach out to college coaches. Although campus tours are not happening right now, many collegiate coaches are happy to schedule an informational phone call or video meeting; get on their radar now!


Many students we work with are taking on additional responsibilities at home. I know students doing the majority of childcare for their much younger siblings while their parents work, and many find themselves cooking meals, tackling house projects, caring for older family members, and more. Life is a complex juggling act for many families right now, and teens can gain new perspective, maturity, and authentic pride from helping their family.

College Research and Applications

This is a great time for 10th and 11th graders to start researching colleges. Hop online for virtual college tours, explore LinkedIn to see where alumni from colleges go on to work, use free college search engines like the College Board’s Big Future to explore. Juniors can also start writing their application essays! The Common App 2020-2021 essay prompts are published and provide a great place to start for many students. Even if campuses are closed this summer, admission officers are still working and many small colleges will offer video or phone interviews for rising seniors this summer; take a look at their websites and look for ways to engage.

Keep an eye on our blog as we continue to provide ideas of ways to engage in the world remotely and key updates in the evolving landscape of college admission in the coming weeks and months.

For more, visit our full list of COVID-19 resources.


College Application Prep 101

Written by Sara Calvert-Kubrom
Sara Calvert-Kubrom is a member of College Coach's team of college admissions consultants and a former admissions officer at Lewis & Clark College and leader of the Program at Northeastern University. Visit our website to learn more about Sara Calvert-Kubrom.