The terrible news about the wild fires in San Diego is everywhere, and I’m sure all of our thoughts are with those having to take refuge. For the past few years, natural disasters seem to coincide with application deadlines, creating a secondary level of stress for anyone impacted by these awful situations. A counsellor asked today, as her schools were closed, whether her students would be impacted by whether or not she was able to get out her recommendation letters, and I was reminded again of the incredible dedication that guidance counsellors and teachers show their students by writing dozens (hundreds, thousands) of compelling references, often under difficult and trying circumstances.
For the educators and students impacted by the fires, or by other circumstances beyond their control, I believe I am on very firm ground to say that most if not all colleges and universities will show leniency regarding deadlines and reporting. During Katrina, Mason was among the first institutions to open our doors to refugees, necessarily waiving our usual documentation requirements (as there were not schools from which to obtain transcripts, and most of the records were inaccessible, damaged, or in a few cases even destroyed). Most universities and colleges had the same set of policies, and I like to think that most of us respond with the same compassion and understanding in all of these cases that we showed for that tragedy.
My recommendation: get in touch with your target schools when you can, and ask them to waive a deadline if it looks like it may be tough to make, whether it be for admission or scholarship. And yes, I realize that a cynical few might choose to abuse this, but I’m willing to take that risk – and wouldn’t you?
As I read about families taking shelter and leaving their family pets behind, I feel the admissions process put into context. Getting into any one school is not life or death, and sometimes our self importance, as we struggle with ratings and course rigor, loses sight of what is of the greatest values. With that in mind, my thoughts and prayers are with any of you in difficulty, and tonight especially with those in California.