Diploma and a movie

Graduation at a drive-in, all your stuff is back at college, & the job you thought was yours just ghosted you. (I talked with the co-founder of Grown and Flown.) Plus, 7 other things worth your time.

A Pennsylvania school district recently announced plans to hold an innovative graduation ceremony in this time of social distancing.

They’re doing it at a drive-in movie theater.

Instead of walking across the stage, graduates will line up in cars with their families. The valedictorian and salutatorian will pre-record their speeches. They’ll show an inspirational class video on the big screen.

Sign of the times, right? I learned about this from Lisa Heffernan, co-founder of Grown and Flown, a website and extremely active Facebook group (150,000+ members) for parents of kids aged high school and beyond.

Heffernan and her co-founder Mary Dell Harrington literally wrote the book on parenting at this age. So when an Understandably reader suggested exploring what it’s like to be in college or high school right now, Heffernan was the natural person for me to talk to.

I know some readers are squarely in this demographic, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think of our conversation. Here are the highlights and takeaways.

The early warnings

Much of what we talked about has to do with how Covid-19 and social distancing are affecting life milestones in high school and college.

The earliest indication among G&F’s members that something big and disruptive was happening came among parents of kids who were studying overseas.

“The first really acute concern was: What's going to happen to my kids who were studying abroad?” Heffernan said. “Getting kids home … was the very first thing that we saw with this age group.”

Then, colleges started closing down and students had to leave campuses—and many were already already away on spring break.

That means those students “have a unique problem at the moment, which is that they’re staying at home and all of their belongings are still sitting on college campuses somewhere,” Heffernan said. 

High school milestones

For high school juniors, besides simply being at home, a big issue is that the March and May sittings of the SAT test were canceled. (The ACT is currently delayed from April to June.)

Many juniors take the SAT in spring so they have an opportunity for a retest in the fall if needed. There’s a bit of a solution here already, in that some colleges, including the entire University of California system, are announcing test-optional applications, at least for this year.

Seniors are missing out on social milestones and memories like prom, graduation, spring sports.

Besides the drive-in theater idea, some schools are trying to reschedule events for August—hoping things might be closer to normal then.

College plans

Applying to college and making plans is stressful enough in normal times. Now, it’s not even certain that campuses will be open for September.

The deadline for making college decisions is normally May 1, but some colleges—not all—have agreed to delay for a month. Even so, seniors are choosing colleges without visiting campuses in some cases, or as they and their parents are facing financial upheaval.

The money issue is huge, of course, and there’s an emerging trend toward students choosing less expensive colleges, and those closer to home.

“Many schools are making it clear to parents that they are becoming much more flexible around money,” she said. “So if you've got a financial aid offer a month ago, and now your situation has changed dramatically, that door is now back open again.”

Jobs and internships

Another big issue: sudden uncertainty about summer internships and post-college job plans. 

“Offers were rescinded, or some kids were in the process of interviewing for an internship and suddenly that lead went cold,” Heffernan said. “A lot of kids are facing the very real prospect of not having a job, or not having an internship, and that money being an integral part of paying student loans and paying student fees.”

If there’s any silver lining in all this—besides maybe just the idea that adversity builds strength—it might be the opportunity for some real Olympic-class parenting. (Which is nice, since the Olympics have been postponed for a year.)

“That's what makes an adult: being able to put things into context, but still feel sad about things that are affecting us personally,” Heffernan told me. “So this is a chance, I think, to some do some of our very, very best parenting.”

7 other things worth your time

  • This is interesting. A research letter written by Chinese doctors and published by the CDC attempts to explain the spread of Covid-19 from a single infected diner to nine patrons in a restaurant in late January, without infecting others. It all seemed to follow the flow of air from an air conditioning vent. (Business Insider)

  • Also pretty wild: Electricity usage data shows how people have changed their lifestyles and rhythms while quarantined: Basically sleeping later, staying pu later, and goofing off in the afternoons. (Bloomberg Quint)

  • Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Princeton all say they won’t take stimulus money, after President Trump and others criticized them for planning to accept millions. (Politico)

  • Separately, Trump reversed course, saying “I disagree strongly” with Georgia Gov. Kemp’s decision to reopen the state. “But at the same time,” the president added, “he must do what he thinks is right.” (NBC News)

  • The California Highway Patrol banned all protests on California state property. (Sacramento Bee)

  • A lot of small businesses got nothing so far from the federal stimulus, but banks made $10 billion in fees to service the loans. (NPR)

  • Finally… [Somber piano music.] “Since 2019, Understandably.com has always been dedicated to people, and to families. Especially now in these uncertain times, we’re here to help.” OK, this little joke will make more sense if you watch the video below. Apparently, America has only one Covid-19 television ad, it’s just been aired by every big company.


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