7 Top Ways to Support Your High School Senior or Junior During COVID-19

Your high school senior, junior or sophomore may not be thrilled about his or her new circumstances. “What do you mean, nobody knows when coronavirus will end?” 

Sound familiar?

I talked with a colleague last week whose son, a junior in high school, was signed up for the April ACT. He had a lengthy meeting planned with his guidance counselor about his senior year schedule. Plus, he had two college visits scheduled for March and one in April. 

Another friend’s daughter was set to make her college decision by May 1. She was looking forward to spending time with her friends during these last weeks and going to her best friends’ graduation parties.

As a parent, you may feel grief — the loss of things that will never be. No high school for the rest of the year, no springtime college visits, no graduation ceremony. 

Your son or daughter may feel it, too. Now’s a good time to check in on everyone’s mental health. Here’s how to make sure your high schooler handles all of it well, follows the rules and manages to learn on top of everything else.

1. Make sure social distancing happens. 

Yep, first things first. Teenagers may have a hard time wrapping their heads around COVID, never mind social distancing. High schoolers may developmentally have a difficult time “seeing” the temporary aspects of COVID-19 and envisioning a better future.

Again, social distancing. How many times have you had to explain to your child he can’t hang out in the basement with his usual group of friends?

It’s important not to minimize kids’ frustrations about not seeing friends. Jen DiSessa, parent of T.J., a sophomore, and Will, a freshman, says it’s also important to recognize that all kids are wired to have interactions in the real world, not just in technical spaces. “My boys are pretty anti-social,” she says. “That being said, my oldest told me the other day he needed to see someone he wasn’t related to in person, not on a screen. I think we forget that no matter how anti-social some can be.”

2. Support remote learning efforts if your child’s high school requires them.

It’s easy to back off trying to help with U.S. history after the first snarky, “I can do it myself!” (How do homeschool parents do it?) 

Helping with online and virtual learning may never have been in your playbook, but it’s not in your child’s, either. Your child’s probably not super comfortable with a complete switch to remote learning after more than 10 years in a classroom. 

Continue to offer your support, even if you think it isn’t appreciated.

“As much as our kids don’t ask for in-person communication, they certainly do need it,” says DiSessa. “They want others to experience these things with them!”

3. Continue extracurricular activities — if it’s feasible.

It may be heartbreaking to realize that the state track meet isn’t going to happen this year. Or that a soccer season is over before it even began. (Especially if you expected college coaches to witness the end of your child’s lofty high school athletic career.) 

Is it possible to continue certain extracurricular activities? For example, maybe your daughter’s a thriving musician and she can continue her saxophone lessons on Zoom with her private tutor.

“Our daughter plays both tennis, softball and is also a musician. We have kept her active by continuing her private lessons in tennis and softball, and online piano lessons will begin this week,” says Lisa Knipe, mom to Molly, a freshman in high school. “It’s important to keep life moving in a forward motion so that when students are allowed to return to school and sports, they are prepared,” she adds.

Do what you can to keep things going. Help your child make conditioning, rehearsing and more happen while social distancing. (Hopefully, that doesn’t mean converting the basement to a full-blown workout facility!)

4. Encourage being flexible and adaptable.

Your child’s used to being in a regular classroom every day. He loves kidding around with other students, challenging his teachers and stuffing his face with six PB&Js at lunch.

Now, he’s been locked out of his teachers’ Google Drive documents eight times and has to learn how to use Zoom. To add insult to injury, he must be a teensy bit more motivated to complete some assignments without teacher lecture. 

Now’s a great time for a big life lesson: Change happens. 

Mindful.org has a great line for your kiddo if he’s willing to hear your advice: Open yourself up to learn different ways of doing things and learning. The more you gain confidence in uncertainty, the more adaptable you will be.

Believe it or not, lessons learned during COVID-19 can help during college and in the workplace. (How’s that for a silver lining?)

5. Help your junior (or sophomore) plan.

The only thing that sophomores and juniors need to hear right now is that it’s okay that the college search has ground to a halt. It’s a good idea to talk through a few things you know for sure. Juniors and sophomores will experience:

  • Delayed standardized test-taking. (ACT switched its April 4 test date to June 13 and the May 2 SAT is canceled.) 
  • A drastic change in college visit timing.
  • Curriculum and extracurricular activities will get stuffed into the next academic year.
  • Possible changes in early decision and early action deadlines for colleges. (This only applies to your rising high school senior.) Not sure what these mean? Here it is, quick:
    • Early decision is a binding agreement. This means your son or daughter must attend his or her top-choice college particular. Your high school senior would traditionally apply to that school around November — but that could change with COVID-19.
    • Early action plans are not binding. Your son or daughter would traditionally get an early response to his or her application around January or February but traditionally would not have to commit to a college until the following May 1.

Let’s shift to the positives. 

  • It’s a great time to start making a plan. Ask your child what he or she wants in a college. Which colleges and needs are on your child’s wishlist?
  • Your son or daughter can start applying for scholarships. The College Board offers a scholarship search tool you can look at together.
  • Check out virtual visits. So many sites have them right now! Keep mind that these images are the best a college has to offer. They’ll only show you their most beautiful buildings. You should always visit in person later.

What other foreseeable changes can you pinpoint for your child? Discuss these changes together and how you’ll approach them later on.

6. Help your high school senior navigate. There’s no rulebook here!

If you’re the parent of a high school senior, you might think you have a bit of a mess on your hands. Your child should have been finalizing a college decision by May 1. Patience is a good approach right now.

Carnegie Dartlet’s survey of 4,848 high school students showed that admission offices haven’t all extended the traditional May 1 deposit deadline. However, 67% of students surveyed say they want an extension, at least until June 1.

Most colleges should be in direct communication with you with decisions that impact the fall semester. If you haven’t heard anything from a particular school, reach out to your child’s admission counselor at that school to learn more. Here is a short list of things that you and your senior may want to talk about:

  • Do you both still feel comfortable with your child’s No. 1 choice or do you need to wait?
  • Summer orientation plans: What’s the college’s stance?
  • What’s happening with your college savings (or sudden lack thereof)?

7. Talk about the financial implications.

The media’s done nothing but talk about how the stock market has plunged. You don’t have to look far to see it in your 401(k) and your kiddo’s 529 plan. Your child may not understand that this means COVID-19 could affect your ability to pay for college. Talk about this together.

Thomas Hayes, chairman of Great Hill Capital in New York, says there’s a bright spot on the horizon. “Balanced portfolios may take a hit in the short term, but if you look out 12-24 months, we are looking for a strong recovery,” says Hayes. “The government learned from the last financial crisis and rather than waiting for things to break before stepping in, they have already provided up to $7 trillion of aid and liquidity to fill what is projected to be a $1 to $2 trillion contraction in growth.  This too shall pass and we may wind up better than expected on the other side.”

Even so, all colleges have heaps of families all in the same boat. How will colleges be able to meet families’ ever-pressing needs?

Colleges are still trying to iron out their responses.

Ask the financial aid office or admission counselor at your child’s top choice whether the college will revisit your financial aid award to meet increased levels of need. After all, a job loss or drastic income shift isn’t reflected in your current FAFSA information.

Offer Support and Love

This time is stressful for you. Whether you realize it or not, it may be even more stressful for your high schooler. Make sure you’re checking in with each other. Everyone’s in this together — you, your child, the high school and the college he or she will (soon!) attend.

How to Write a Scholarship Thank You Letter Step by Step

How to Write a Scholarship Thank You Letter Step by Step

Good for you for wanting to write a scholarship letter — or, if you’re a parent who wants your kiddo to write a letter — good job on asking him or her to write a scholarship thank you. 

Scholarships can be a saving grace — in some cases, college, trade school grad school — might be impossible without one (or two or three).

Here’s how to pen the perfect message.

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Why Write a Scholarship Thank You Letter?

Lots of companies, organizations and other entities give scholarships — and individuals do, too. You might not think that a faceless corporation would get a kick out of receiving a scholarship letter, but that’s just not true.

Let’s say you write to the board of directors and profusely thank them for your generosity, and you just might earn yourself more scholarships in the future. Maybe you find that a particular scholarship is renewable.

But it’s more than that. It’s more than just about what’s in it for you — it’s about building relationships with people and making a real human connection with someone or a group of people who has (excitedly!) proven their generosity.

When to write a scholarship thank you letter

You might think you only need to write a scholarship letter once you receive a scholarship. However, it’s a good idea to write a scholarship letter during any part of the scholarship process:

  • Immediately after you interview for a scholarship
  • After you do alumni interviews for admission to a particular college
  • Once you audition for a scholarship (music, theatre, etc.)
  • Once you’re evaluated in any way for a scholarship

In other words, anytime you actively do something to try to nab a scholarship, you need to thank someone for it. 

Here’s a quick scenario. You interview for a business scholarship at a college with a professor that you know you’ll have in class someday. You send a thank you note and the professor sends an email back. The professor remembers you from the interview and gives you the scholarship because of your stellar interview — and who knows? Maybe because of your thank you note, too.

Furthermore, let’s say a college gives you a giant merit-based scholarship. Sure, it might seem like they give those to lots of students (liberal arts colleges often give out large merit-based scholarships to bring down their tuition costs) but consider this. Maybe you send a hand-written note to the admission counselor and lo and behold, another scholarship is available later — and since you’re such a kind, caring student, they recommend you for the scholarship first.

How Should My Scholarship Letter Sound?

Your letter should take on a formal tone. The type of letter you send will convey how formal it is — a typed letter is way more formal than a hand-written card or email. It’s a good idea to err on the side of formal when you’re writing a scholarship thank you letter.

You may want to consider a formal letter once you’ve interviewed for a scholarship or when you’ve received a scholarship. On the other hand, you might want to pen a handwritten thank you note to an admission counselor for your visit to campus (this is another great thank you opportunity!).

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Steps to Write a Formal Scholarship Thank You Letter

Let’s walk through the steps so you’ll know exactly what you’ll need to do — but don’t copy the one we include below word-for-word. Add your own touch — and maybe even a little pizzazz.

Step 1: Check the name of the recipients, write the salutation and first paragraph.

Here’s what you’ll need to collect before you get started: 

  • The first and last name of the donor or organization that’s giving you a scholarship. Double-check — no, triple-check! — the spelling of any names. Quadruple check!
  • The name of the scholarship. Again, make sure you’re spelling it right.
  • The address, city, state and zip code of the scholarship donors.

Your salutation should start with “Dear” — no ifs, ands or buts. If you feel at all the desire to write “Hey” or “Whazzup” at the beginning of a scholarship letter, squish it immediately. You’re writing a formal thank you. 

Your intro doesn’t have to be boring, though most letters you’ll see start with, “I’m writing to thank you for your generous scholarship.” Bland, huh? You can get a bit more creative than that, but remember — always start with the purpose of your letter.

Step 2: Write the second paragraph.

Get a little friendly here — if you didn’t in the first paragraph. First, talk about yourself a little more. Maybe you’re into martial arts or dance. Maybe you play the bari sax in your school band — scholarship donors are real people who want to know who you are. Explain why the donor’s investment means so much to you.

Can you think of other things to add? Of course you can. Make it memorable. If you did an interview with that person, add a personal touch, such as “I really enjoyed hearing you talk about your love of Shakespeare in my interview. We recently performed Hamlet at the community little theatre and I played Ophelia.”

Step 3: Write the conclusion.

Finally, you’ll want to end with a robust thank you and a promise to honor the donor’s or donors’ investments. This is the time to make your donor feel good and laud them with phrases like, “I wouldn’t be able to continue my education without you.” 

Step 4: Add the closing and sign your name.

You’ll also need a complimentary close to sign off your letter. Use “Sincerely,” “Best wishes” or “All the best” for the closing. “Thanks a bunch,” probably doesn’t strike quite the right vibe.

Next, actually sign your letter — don’t just type your name. You’ll type your name under your signature.

Put it All Together

Now that you’ve digested all of that, let’s put all the parts together. 

[Date] — be sure to write this out like this: October 25, 2019
[Mr. or Mrs. First and Last Name of Donor or Name of Organization ] 
[Name of Scholarship] 
[City, State, Zip]

Dear [Donor Name or Organization Name],

First paragraph: Explain why you’re writing your letter.

Thanks so much for choosing me to be your [Name of scholarship] scholarship recipient. I was so excited when I got your letter in the mail!

Second paragraph: Talk a little bit about yourself and explain why the letter means so much to you.

I’m a ballet dancer and a travel enthusiast (my grandparents have taken me to 26 countries around the world). My love of travel has spurred me to learn two other languages — French and Spanish. 

I’m planning to major in English and get either a business management or a communication studies minor. I really want to be a journalist someday — and my major goal is to write for The New York Times. I plan to write for my college newspaper, but I’m not quite sure which school I’m attending yet. I’ll be sure to make a decision soon, after I wrap up a couple more college visits. 

Third paragraph:  Wrap it up and thank the person or organization again and explain that you’re going to “take good care of” the donor’s investment.

This scholarship helps me achieve my dreams of becoming a journalist and I’m so thankful to you to help make that happen. I hope one day I’ll be able to pay it forward and help another student in need.


[Sign your name here]
[Your name] 
[City, State, Zip]

Wait — What About the Envelope?

Put your letter in a #10 business envelope with a Z-fold (YouTube it if you’re not sure what that means — it means that you’ll fold your letter once and then back again). 

Write your address in the upper left-hand corner. You might be wondering if it’s okay to handwrite this part. It sure is. 

Put your recipient’s name, the name of the organization and address in the center of the envelope. Finally, put a stamp in the upper right-hand corner. Your letter shouldn’t be overly thick because it’ll just have one sheet of paper in it — so you should only need one Forever stamp.

Write the Best Possible Scholarship Letter

One question you might be wondering: How long does this thing have to be? Luckily, not long. A scholarship letter can be just three short paragraphs like the one above — but make an effort to be sincerely thankful and try your hardest to make a connection, just like you would if you were sharing a handshake and thanking the donor in person. 

You might not know your donor’s name right off the bat if the scholarship is coming from an organization. However, do your best to find the name of the person in charge, such as the CEO of the organization that’s giving you the scholarship. It’s much better to put a person’s name on the letter rather than sending it to a large corporation — you wouldn’t want your efforts to be wasted.

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