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Headed Back to School with Uncertainty on the Horizon: Building a College Resume From Home

One year ago last March, a national emergency was declared in reaction to the spread of Covid-19. Thus began our adventure in remote learning. Since then, over a half million Americans have fallen to the deadly virus.

Now, following Governor Walz’s decision to reopen our middle and high schools at full capacity, Minnesota families prepare for some sort of educational normalcy amidst a chaotic year.

It's important to acknowledge however that the virus has not simply gone away. We could easily see another round of school closures in Minnesota, on either an individual district or statewide basis. Especially with variant strains of the virus spreading across the US, putting questions to the efficacy of existing vaccines.

As we prepare to re-enter our schools at full capacity, our Minnesota healthcare system continues to face challenges. One way we can continue our support of our health care workers is by adhering to proper social distancing guidelines.

Sometimes we are safer at home. Sometimes we can save lives by doing nothing at all. But that doesn't mean our students can't still be productive. Here we will highlight various home-based activities that will challenge our students, increase their community engagement from a distance, and boost their college resumes.

1. Practicing a Foreign Language

The best time to learn a language is now. Not only does language acquisition look attractive on a college resume but it can also lead to a more empathetic understanding of different cultures. With the convenience of cell phones today, everyone has the capability to learn another language in the palm of their hands.

Duolingo is one popular app choice that features free, 'bite-sized' daily lessons. Many high school language teachers use the lessons of Duolingo (as well as Quizlet) as supplementary study tools within their curriculums.

Babbel is another free language learning app that features a minimalist design and interactive dialogue. There are also paid app options such as Memrise that increase the scope of vocabulary and grammar while entertaining the attention of teenagers through memes and gamification.

If human interaction is preferable to a mobile app, it is also incredibly easy to find a penpal in the 21st century by using resources such as Interpals or Penpal Schools.

Always, the best resource for learning a language is the one you will actually use.

2. Learn New Skills

With the absence of many public activities, our students may be able to find free time to learn a new skill. It's important to foster curiosity in our students and encourage them to try new activities. For many technical skills, students can get started with open source programs that allow them to experiment for free.

For example, if you’d like to explore the world of video production, start filming and then learn to edit.

Or maybe you'd like to learn more about programming languages. On browser, Code Academy and Free Code Camp are incredible multifaceted resources with vibrant online communities, while the Apple and Play Stores feature apps like Programming Hub: Learn Coding, SoloLearn: Learn to Code, as well as my personal favorite, Grasshopper. Again, gamification makes practicing a new skill more enjoyable.

Or maybe you're interested in Computer Aided Design (CAD) or photo editing?

The world was not built on the first try. Any well-developed skill demands practice, patience, and persistence. No matter the opportunity, try with an open mind and a little bit of effort. Then repeat that step a thousand times. Success demands consistency.

3. Volunteer Your Time

Just because our teenagers are stuck at home doesn't mean that they can't be involved in our communities. Aside from donations to food pantries or homeless shelters, or even writing letters to long term care facilities, there are more options than ever to give back.

When it comes to distinguishing oneself from other college applicants, ACT scores and GPA are important. The real separator however may come down to community engagement and volunteer hours. Help others while helping yourself, and be the change you want to see in your community.

4. Study Music

There are many academic studies that suggest learning music may positively affect academic performance. Although uncertainty remains about the 'underlying mechanisms' of the relationship, "music is the one thing that brings people together and creates social bonding and makes us feel fantastic."

A good place to start is by enrolling in music classes at school or investing in private lessons for guitar or piano.

Even making music digitally is more accessible than ever before. All you need is a computer and a digital audio workstation (DAW). One open source DAW that I would recommend is LMMS, with more information available here.


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