3 Ways for High School and College Students to Stay Mentally Strong During COVID

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In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt gives you three ways to stay strong during the COVID era.

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VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 


AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. This is Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and Elite Admissions Expert at Ivy Insight and author of “Get Real and Get In”. Today, we’re going to be talking about three ways for college and high school students to stay mentally strong in the COVID era. This is based on a recent article I wrote for Forbes. So there’s no doubt that for high school students and college students this year looks different from any year in history. Students on college campuses must deal with a threat posed by COVID-19. If you’re in-person at your high school, you may feel a perpetual sense of unease even when you take your best safety precautions. Virtual school, if that’s your situation, also forces you to contend with mental health difficulties, especially loneliness. According to a report from Harvard’s, Making Caring Common about 61% of young adults are feeling quote “serious loneliness” compared to 36% of everyone surveyed. But there are ways to stay mentally strong even in the toughest of time. I recently spoke with Tom billow, a University of Southern California film graduate, who is the CEO of Impact Theory and co-founder of Quest Nutrition. Quest Nutrition is a dollar company that manufactures protein rich product. I’ve had their bars. They’re pretty good. Tom offered three tips on how high school and college students can stay mentally strong during the COVID era or anytime. 1. Build connections where you can during high school. Tom’s only goal was to attend USC Film, but at that time, it was statistically harder to get into than Harvard law, and Tom’s SAT scores were, let’s say, less than stellar. Luckily, a USC admissions officer made himself available for lunch. The admissions officer told Tom that if he gained admission to USC and earn top grades for two years, he could reapply for admission to the film school. That’s exactly what he did. He earned a perfect GPA and was ultimately accepted. While going out to lunch may seem like a from a era. The way that Tom chose to connect with a can be replicated virtually during this challenging time. Think about who you could surround yourself with to gain support and what mentors can help you along the way to build and benefit from community. Many college students are joining the voice and invite only app Club House and communities like The Conversationalist, which is a focused online forum designed to foster honest and deep discussion. It’s easy to be anonymous when class happens online but high school and college students should take time to connect with people who would help them to achieve their goals. Whether it’s on or off campus, going for a coffee with a friend or teacher, organizing a game night, or making time for a late-night phone conversation with a friend are all good ways to do this. 2. Find activities that give more energy than they take. Sitting in front of a computer all day will deplete anyone/ Zoom fatigue is now part of everyday life. To counter this, Tom recommends students find an energy generating activity and pursue it. For Tom, this activity was filmmaking. As I reported, many students are using this time to take gap years and time off to pursue their passions and purposes. For example, one of my clients spent summer 2020 on a break from an Ivy League school as a firefighter, heroically volunteering to put an end to the tragic wildfires in Northern California. For someone else, it could be a like swimming, painting, composing music, or playing tennis. In my book, “Get Real and Get In”, I highlight students who have doubled down on their genuine passions and interests and how that helps them to achieve meaningful goals. High school and college students can use this time to explore new activities. Not just things they’ve done in the past or classes that look good on a transcript. The spark generated by these activities will enable you to recommit to what you want to do and to rediscover a sense of purpose. Finally, embrace a growth mindset. Once Tom was admitted to film school, he did well for the first two years. Quote, “I had a natural talent”, he said. “To me, filmmaking was like painting you’re either a good painter or you’re not”. Tom was 1 of 4 students chosen to create a senior thesis film, but things didn’t go according to plan. Tom says that he created one of the worst imaginable thesis films so bad that his team cut loops of the film to make fun of it. That experience helped Tom realized that a mindset wasn’t serving him. It’s not a of having talent or not having talent. It’s a matter of how you grow from it. So in Tom’s case, he believed he was talented, but suddenly he questioned that, and it forced him to relearn and unlearn things that he thought were true before. With a growth mindset change is possible. Your character traits are not set in stone. You can and enhance your own potential with work and persistence. Tom says that “embracing a growth mindset” was key to his later success. This idea of a mindset is embraced in Adam Grant’s book, “Think Again”, which I spoke about on a previous episode, Grant argues that learning to question your own opinions and open your mind helps to position you for excellence. The ability to unlearn and rethink is one of the most important skills we can embody. It’s a bet that you’re not having the best experience. However, even as the pandemic takes its toll, you can stay mentally strong by connecting with mentors and speaking to them about what your goals are as well as engaging in energy generating activities and embracing a mindset these skills will serve you well long after graduation.


VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.