Navigate post-secondary planning during eLearning


Courtesy of Andrea Rusk

Then and now: The real-life College and Career Resource Center (first) provided the inspiration for its virtual counterpart (last). Rusk created a Google slideshow that emulates a single room, so the resources a student would need is in clear locations. “There are so many things available, and I know that finding them and sorting through them all can be confusing,” College Counselor Andrea Rusk said. “I thought that having one ‘room,’ just like being able to walk through one door at MHS, might help with organization.”

Ashley Cline, Co-Editor-in-Chief

As MHS adapted to eLearning, a key element that needed to be implemented for upperclassmen was a new format for college guidance. Despite the disruption that COVID-19 caused, college applications are still on the agenda for many seniors, and guidance is still a necessity for students of all grades looking to stay on track for post-secondary plans. To answer these needs on an online platform, College Counselor Andrea Rusk introduced the Virtual College and Career Resource Center (CCRC). 

“The virtual CCRC is a one-stop-shop where MHS students can access all of their post-secondary planning resources in one location,” Rusk said. “Students can schedule a meeting with Mrs. Rusk, view a calendar of upcoming events, find links to join college representative visits, watch how-to videos, access an amazing amount of planning resources and additional support systems, and more.”

In-person events, a staple of CCRC programming, also were revised for online purposes.

“We are also still hosting evening programming, just as in past years, but now it is all virtual,” Rusk said. “One of the good things to come out of this is that every session is now recorded and can be reviewed later, or if you miss the event, you can still access the information.”

College representatives are still coming to MHS virtually, and those dates and times– like all of the virtual CCRC resources– are being sent through school email and can be found on the school website. 

“Mrs. Rusk is working so hard to make sure we seniors have the smoothest application process possible,” Elle Mishler, senior, said. “Same goes for the Literacy Center and our guidance counselors. All of them are sending out information on how to meet with them and really trying to help us out in every way.”

Another COVID-19 disruption occurred with the postponement of standardized testing, which altered the schedule of the SAT and ACT testing. As far as state-mandated SAT testing is concerned, seniors will take the test on Oct. 14 to replace the cancellation of the April date. Juniors are expected to take the SAT in the spring as traditionally scheduled. 

With testing being interuppted, many colleges have decided to make their applications test-optional for equity purposes.

“Applying test-optional isn’t something that is entirely new, but it is new to many different colleges this year,” Rusk said. “This impacts how the admissions teams will be reviewing the applications, of course, so students should take some time to look into those procedures and seek out support with their essays and supplemental materials if they need it to ensure that they are putting forward the best possible application.”

Rusk recommends that juniors take extra care in their college research, as some schools are only going to be test-optional for 2021 admittance, and others will be remaining test-optional for three or more years. 

Despite the disruptions to the college application process this year, some students noted the benefits. For example, the lack of a traditional school day has given students new-found time to work on their post-secondary plans.

“I am using the extra time I have from being at home to really work on all my applications and writing essays,” Mishler said. “Since I have a free period, it is an awesome chunk of time during my day to make progress on my various application pieces.” 

To keep a consistent routine, some students have said keeping a set schedule regarding when they work on their applications and study for upcoming tests has been a great way to keep themselves accountable.

“I make time at least once or twice a week specifically dedicated to college prep work time– whether that is an hour here or an hour there,” Lauren Carlson, senior, said. 

As students work on their applications, Rusk noted other ways to get support beyond the CCRC. 

“College representatives want to connect with you, and this year they are having a much more difficult time doing so,” Rusk said. “Reach out to them, and they will be happy to assist you as you work through your process.” 

Rusk offered one more note of encouragement.

“Of course, we’re here for anything you need, too,” she said. “The best parts of my day are my student meetings. Our MHS students are amazing and resilient, and I am so proud of all that you are already accomplishing.”