Toast to success
A look back at educational challenges, change to normal in 2021
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.
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@ collegecc.com. 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.