Come Out From the Shadows
On Groundhog Day earlier this month, my advisory debated the wisdom around the folklore of this tradition. If the groundhog sees his shadow, he retreats back into his burrow to wait out the winter. We determined as a group that this passive, avoidance technique was not necessarily the best reaction to his shadow and the prospect of a longer winter....
On Groundhog Day earlier this month, my advisory debated the wisdom around the folklore of this tradition. If the groundhog sees his shadow, he retreats back into his burrow to wait out the winter. We determined as a group that this passive, avoidance technique was not necessarily the best reaction to his shadow and the prospect of a longer winter. As my advisees scattered off to class, I turned my thoughts, as I so often do, to the college process.
Punxsutawney Phil would not make a great college applicant. This "bury your head in the sand" approach to adversity is not likely to impress admission reviewers. Nor is retreating to our safe space an effective tactic to challenge ourselves and encourage personal or intellectual growth. We all have our shadows and face long winters; however, the manner in which we confront our shortcomings and limitations is what characterizes us. In the college process, this plays out in a number of ways.
Perhaps a student had a slow start to high school, struggling with low grades and even lower motivation. All is not lost, and if the student rallies and shows progressive improvement, this creates a significant impression on admission officers, speaking to the student's resilience and desire to grow. For another student the challenge might be to accept that despite their desire to push themselves and load up on AP courses, for the sake of balance and excellence, they might need to temper their course program and make difficult choices.
It is common that a student feels that their lack of involvement or the absence of a true extracurricular passion is their shadow or a cloud hanging over their overall college application portfolio. The student can choose to brood over this perceived fault or decide to explore new opportunities and engage in their community. Not every student is going to be a star athlete or the lead on stage, and colleges are not expecting this. They are seeking students who have made intentional choices to develop a unique interest and dedicate their time and energy to something greater than themselves. This means coming out of their "burrow" and being willing to walk with their shadow and take risks.
What does this all mean in practice? Students need to accept their limitations while simultaneously testing out new interests and ideas. This could mean creating an independent study in an area of academic passion, enrolling in a summer program that might open them up to new avenues or working to secure an internship or job that will excite their curiosity. The "what" is not as important as the "why" or "how" and the simple act of being willing to throw themselves into the world without regard for their shadow. A refreshing thought is that whether our furry friend sees his shadow or not, spring and renewal always arrive eventually. However, the winter is much more rewarding if our time is not spent hiding underground from our shadow.
Director of College Counseling