Sarah Himmelsbaugh ’21: Growing up, my dad always encouraged me to work hard at everything, providing me with more “choices” when I got older. At the time, I imagined something more along the lines of the board game ‘LIFE’: I imagined going to a counter at a certain age, and having someone quite literally spread out cards describing which college, career, and lifestyle options I had to choose from based on my success. In many ways, that is how the college decision process works. Starting at that young age, I began to look forward to the college decision process being a proud reflection of my effort, focus, and determination throughout my years of secondary school.
Yet, here I stand, a high school senior, with so many options in front of me regarding where I will live next year, where I will go to school, and whether or not I will play a college sport. I thought this process would serve as a culminating reward of everything I dreamed of and worked for over the years. Instead, I feel more confused and lost than ever.
Going into this school year, I knew that college decisions in relation to my golf/athletic career would look different for me than for previous graduating classes. With Coronavirus surging on as summer collapsed into fall, I understood that opportunities to tour campuses, meet coaches, play in tournaments, and participate in my other extracurriculars would be at risk. Thankfully, my final high school golf season ran as planned after a few weeks of uncertainty towards the beginning of the season. I held the opportunity to reach new levels with my game over the summer and the fall seasons.
As a result, around five different colleges athletically recruited me. Each varies in size, location, programs, and even division. On top of this, I earned acceptance into numerous colleges academically as well. I feel incredibly fortunate to, just as my dad hoped for me, hold many choices as to where I will be at this time next year.
I am also terrified and overwhelmed. A year from now, I will have a completely different life. For all I know, I might be living across the state, in a different state, or even at home commuting to school. I remain unsure of whether it will involve playing golf competitively, or focusing on academics and maybe joining clubs instead. While I narrowed my college options down to a final 4 or 5, the pandemic makes it near impossible for me to narrow the list past that. Ionly met a few college coaches in person, and am only able to tour a few of the colleges that I would strongly consider for athletics. As for academics, most of the informational sessions and tours that I hoped to attend end up taking a virtual format or being cancelled all together. As of right now, college campuses are completely closed, hence, I cannot take a self-tour either.
The processes that I planned on using to eliminate my options — the tours, meeting coaches if applicable, attending informational events — became vastly unavailable. While I understand the reasons completely, it most definitely enhances the stress of making these huge decisions. I find myself worrying daily about how I will decide. With the recent extension on school shutdowns across the state, I begin to eliminate colleges blind, without ever going to see the campus or meet the coach if applicable.
Coronavirus also impacted my ability to participate in extracurriculars this school year. Up until the beginning of March, I participated in many different activities, from volunteering at the hospital to taking piano and golf lessons. For some of these activities, I hoped to have one final year to culminate my experience with them, both personally and for college. Each of them became cancelled or shut down within the past 9 months.
College decisions, and the blessing of having many options, remains something that I feel thankful for; however, the pandemic impacted my ability to make final choices of where I will take my future and greatly enhanced the anxiety of navigating through it all. Nonetheless, I look forward to the future, and do my best to stay positive through the chaos of it all.