Advocacy in New and Strange Times

Advocacy in New and Strange Times

March 22, 2020
By: Anne K.W. Richardson

The American School in London

I was going to write about NACAC's Advocacy Day.

Two weeks ago, this is what advocacy looked like for me. I was spending my Sunday in Washington DC with college admissions counselors and college/university counselors from across the world, preparing to go to Capitol Hill on Monday to meet with House and Senate members and their aides, to remind them about the importance of international students in higher education – the many and extraordinary benefits they bring to campuses, classrooms, residence halls, surrounding towns and cities.  In cold hard cash, international students inject over $50 billion each year to US states. But they do so much more – and I include here all of our students who have grown up abroad.  Their presence contributes to and expands the cultural competency and global outlook of all, really so much more valuable and lasting than all of those dollars.  In our many visits on Monday, crisscrossing the Capitol, from Dirksen to Longworth, many listened - some more attentively and closely than others - to this strong advocacy for international students.

And now, two weeks later, we are all in a different, hard world, and some of us have been there longer than others.  In just one week here in the UK, the world of education as we know it has been turned on its head, and we have been rocketed into the unknown, with all the accompanying fears, anxieties that such a turn of events brings. 

School has changed.  Shut are the school doors, like Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and we don’t really know when all the castles will come back to life. The spring SAT and ACT have been cancelled, IB exams and A Levels/GCSE’s have been cancelled and AP exams have gone to an online format. More importantly, we are are now and have been learning at home, with all the accompanying stresses and strains this brings. We are getting or are already used to seeing and having our younger co-workers popping up and joining us in online meetings. We are scheduling our time so that all our co-workers have time to learn and play. We have learned or are learning to share devices and bandwidth. Fresh air, exercise and well-being are more vital than ever. 

So I am still writing about advocacy, because it is now more important than ever. The classes of 2020 and 2021 need us. But it will have to look a little different. 

College counselors and university advisors everywhere are committed to supporting our students now more than ever, so that somehow, and however it happens, the class of 2020 and 2021 not only finish their high school education, but do so with feelings of accomplishment and communal joy. We must and will advocate for them so that they reach their higher education goals, whatever they are. We want them to be able to celebrate in the middle of extraordinary times. 

What I am excited about is all the creative and new ideas that will come out of this global moment when it comes to education and well-being.  We are seeing an explosion of educational innovation that has the potential to change the face of education. 

We hope that admissions counselors at universities across the globe will be understanding and forgiving of transcripts, grades and scores that will not look like the transcripts, grades and scores of 2019.  We hope that thoughts of rankings and old standards are pushed to the background, that issues of equity and access move to the forefront, and that all of us think creatively about how we help these classes adjust and move forward so that their educational dreams can be realized.  Above all, we need to partner in this advocacy, and trust each other: the Classes of 2020 and 2021 will be stronger, more creative, more innovative and more resilient than ever.  Admit them.

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