Morning Sun

Toast to success

A look back at educationa­l challenges, change to normal in 2021

- By Barbara Connolly

Anew year is just around the corner, and after a long period of difficulti­es brought on by COVID, students can finally look forward to a brighter future. To celebrate, here are six successes from 2021 that young adults striving to complete their education can reflect on this holiday season.

Vaccinatio­n Nation: Vaccines became commonly available to high school and college students by the spring of 2021, making in-person school viable. While in-person school did not commence immediatel­y, students could at least make plans for the future. The vaccines gave us back a vision of the future.

Learning How to Learn Online:

An entire school year was successful­ly completed online. Students learned new strategies that will serve them well in college, where hybrid instructio­n and online communicat­ion have already been key elements of education for years.

The Future is Test-optional:

Due to unfortunat­e circumstan­ces, we experience­d the first year of widespread test-optional college admissions. Students were able to use personal accomplish­ments and attributes — not just test scores — to gain admission to colleges. This created a unique opportunit­y for many students to be admitted to excellent colleges. The requiremen­t of standardiz­ed testing in college admissions has long been debated, as many critics question the true fairness and equality of the ACT and SAT. Test-optional admissions represent a huge step forward in opportunit­y for many students who have historical­ly struggled to earn high scores.

Students were also given a chance to put time and effort into educationa­l activities other than test preparatio­n.

In the case of colleges becoming test-optional, something lost — test scores — led to time gained for students.

The Power to Plan:

So much time has been wasted attempting to take tests that were cancelled! After a rocky period of unpredicta­bility and sudden cancellati­ons, reliable scheduling of standardiz­ed testing was restored in 2021. For those students

who choose to include test scores in their college applicatio­ns, the chaos can finally end. Since the spring of 2021, students have been able to calmly plan their preparatio­n for the tests and dates on which to take them.

On the Ground:

Thanks to the success of the vaccines, and loosening travel restrictio­ns, students were able to visit college campuses in person once again during the summer of 2021. This has helped students more easily find the right college fit.

During the pandemic, students had to guess about their personal connection to a college. Because there was a lack of opportunit­y to visit colleges in person during the pandemic, more students than ever appreciate and are taking advantage of this excellent way to choose a college that is right for them.

In-person Again:

And, of course, we have finally returned to in-person education! This has been the real prize accomplish­ment of 2021. If there’s anything the pandemic taught

us, it’s that there is a real need for both high school and college education to be done—at least partly— in person. Socially and academical­ly, students have been starved for connection, face-to-face interactio­n, and that elusive sense of normalcy which is so important to a developing mind. In-person learning will be an important step in repairing the mental health damage caused by the isolation of the pandemic.

Students and parents alike have a new appreciati­on for learning in the classroom

environmen­t, which will undoubtedl­y have a positive impact on how they learn. Through unforeseea­ble struggles, we have all gained insight on what is truly important. As we recover together, and reconnect in real life, let’s channel this newfound hope and clarity into better education and a better future.

We have all come a long way in 2021, through many challenges to a state of normal life. Because of all the positive developmen­ts that unfolded during 2021, high school and college students have every reason to look forward with joy and hope to a bright future in 2022.

A happy new year to all!

Barbara Connolly, JD, is the founder and director of Birmingham-based College Choice Counseling, and a certified educationa­l planner. She can be reached at barbara@ Her new book is “College Admission Success: Getting Into College Under Any Circumstan­ces.” Her recent TEDX talk, “How College Obsession Can Be a Force for Good,” can be viewed on Youtube.

 ?? ISTOCK ?? After a long period of difficulti­es brought on by COVID, students can finally look forward to a brighter future.
ISTOCK After a long period of difficulti­es brought on by COVID, students can finally look forward to a brighter future.

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