Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any more F words thrown at it, here are three more: Flip, Flop, Forward. I’ll explain in a bit, so keep reading.

Lately, my feed (and probably yours, too) is full of posts about what a challenging year 2020 was, so I don’t need to spend any time recapping that fact. As college planners and test prep gurus, we’re especially aware of how difficult the year was for students and families trying to navigate their way through the college planning process.

Three F Words for 2020

2020 was the year of the perpetual FLIP.

2020 College Planning FlipThe pandemic flipped our worlds upside down. It flipped our plans over and over again. Students, parents, teachers, business owners, EVERYONE turned themselves inside out trying to maintain some semblance of the routines and traditions we were used to, like school, sports, work, weddings, even simple nights out with friends. Rites of passage like college visits, prom and graduations were Zoomified, drive-byed or just plain cancelled. Things we’d taken for granted as “normal” suddenly weren’t. In our best moments, we pivoted tirelessly and creatively to maintain the life we knew. In more weary moments, we simply flipped out. I know I did.

On an individual level, our students were tossed and turned in the endless flipping back and forth between on-again-off-again ACT exam dates, closed campuses, never-ending changes in school routines, sports, how they could (and could not) enjoy time with friends, teammates and even their own grandparents.

Dear students, God-willing, there will never be another year like 2020. However, if you’re like most people, this won’t be the last big flip of your life. You will come again upon circumstances in your life where things don’t go according to plan, and your world is flipped upside down. You have survived 2020, worse for the wear in some ways, stronger in others. The next time you get flipped, remember that you have the inner muscle to withstand it. Knowing how to flip is a skill the teens of 2020 couldn’t help but learn.

Much of 2020 was a big, fat FLOP.

At some point, during the perpetual flip, as we let go of our plans in a thousand tiny pieces, some things just flopped. No matter how many adjustments we made, the thing we planned and hoped for just wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t the same flop for everyone. In our family, it was a high-school graduation celebration that was revised and revised again, being flipped multiple times until it just didn’t happen. For others, it was the pursuit of a state championship that you jumped through hoops and made many sacrifices to earn, and in the end you had to forfeit your place in the championship game, cuz’ Covid.

If you flipped until you couldn’t flip anymore and then just flopped, it’s okay. You’re not alone.

Sometimes you need to take a pause, cry, grieve, take a nap, take the day (or week or month) off and regroup. Flop away. This is part of grief in the face of loss.

But put a timer on it. Perpetual flopping will ultimately cause atrophy, and there’s one more F word you need in order to survive the first two.

Ultimately, we kept moving FORWARD.

College Planning 2020 Step ForwardFlip. Flop. Forward. Flip. Flop. Forward. As long as you get all the way to the third F word, it’s going to be okay. One baby step at a time is okay. You don’t need to see all the way to the finish line, but you do need to take the next step FORWARD. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will reach your goal, eventually.

We loved hearing about how our students moved forward through 2020 by finding a new hobby, a new entrepreneurial business venture, new rhythms, new interests, new and deeper relationships. For students on their way to college, moving forward meant new ways of exploring college options, new skills to find the answers they needed (ie, picking up the phone and calling admissions reps), new options and ways of learning altogether. We are so proud of our students and the parents who love them for finding ways to keep moving FORWARD.

Ultimately, it’s about Controlling What You Can Control.

College Planner 2020 Moving ForwardOur motto for the year that we’ve shared with the hundreds of high-school students and families we’ve worked with this year is: Control what you CAN control. This has always been our recommendation. This year in particular, we were all made keenly aware of the fact that there is a LOT that’s beyond our individual control. When we feel helpless, disappointed, anxious, confused or just downright pissed off, we can always return to focus on what’s within our small sphere of influence. There may be a lot I can’t do about circumstances beyond my control. However, in my experience, there’s never a shortage of things I CAN do. I can do the next right thing, take the next step, move forward with the action that’s right in front of me. I may have to pivot. Plans may be flipped. Things might flop. I keep moving forward.

There’s a riddle I came across recently. What has no arms, no hands and no legs, but moves the earth? The earthworm. He flips, flops and moves forward. In his persistent movement, controlling what he can control, he moves the earth. Flip. Flop. Forward. Flip. Flop. Forward.

Nothing magical is going to happen tomorrow, folks. January 1, 2021 and the coming months will probably look a lot like the past ten or so. So the motto for 2021 will likely remain the same as it has in 2020 (and all the years before that): Control what you CAN control. There’s plenty of work to be done. And we’re here to help.