How to Go Back to School This Fall and Be Successful! (2021)

30 JUL 2021

As we head into the fall, schools are beginning to announce plans for fully in-person or hybrid learning environments. Many students wondering what they can do to get ahead after nearly two years of online/hybrid instruction. What can you do to ensure that you have a successful year?

Ways Admissions Will Change

By now, you are likely aware that dozens of universities around the country have moved to a test-optional policy. The Ivy League, the UCs, as well as several other institutions have announced that they will no longer require the SAT/ACT as a mandatory requirement for admission. While this certainly seems beneficial for students that struggle with standardized testing and time restrictions, this does not mean students should refrain from taking these exams. Submitting test scores for the SAT, ACT, and SAT IIs can be the deciding factor for admitting one student over another. Strong standardized test scores demonstrate the ability to perform under pressure and keep up with university-level rigor.

We recommend students interested in STEM especially to still take these exams as it benefits the quality of applications greatly to prove students are able to handle the rigor of higher-level quantitative courses. For students pursuing a STEM path, we recommend taking as many STEM-related courses in high school as possible… even electives! AP classes are big plus.

The SAT and ACT are intending on holding exams this fall, but be sure to confirm with your local testing center to ensure the exams are still being administered.

Due to the change in requirements like standardized testing, universities are shifting their priorities when it comes to applications and admissions requirements. Many admissions officers have expressed that they may need more time with their decisions when it comes to deciding on which students are admitted.

While test-optional admissions and changes to EA/ED deadlines are at the forefront for both parents and students applying this coming year, there are other changes to keep in mind. It is likely that fewer athletes will be recruited and there will be a heavier reliance on full-fee paying students. In addition, there will be more offers to international students if colleges and universities see a big drop in who shows up in this year’s Freshman class. If your students are looking at competitive schools, now is your chance!

With the implementation of test-optional policies, more schools are relying heavily on the impact of personal statements, supplementary essays, and letters of recommendation. The Common App has even added a new question related to COVID-19 and its impacts on education: “Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.” Click here to learn more about if and how to answer this question.

Students can still stand out throughout high school. So far, we’ve seen students jumping into virtual internships & camps this summer. This fall, it will be key to excel in academics and extracurriculars.

Excel in Learning

While transitioning back into the classroom, there are many ways you can structure your academics and day-to-day life in order to find immense success and balance.

How to Be Successful

Resources for Getting Ahead

Ways to Boost Extracurriculars Online

As mentioned before, the importance of standardized testing may be in decline, but aspects of your application such as the essay and extracurricular activities weigh more than normal. Now is the optimal time for students to demonstrate their leadership skills, move club/organization meetings online, plan ahead, and adapt digitally! It is critical for students to upskill to remain at the top of the application pool. Practice competitive activities such as debate, coding, MUN negotiations, coding, and more.

There are countless opportunities for students to get involved and level up during this time of extended social distancing. The internet is an incredible tool for you to utilize when it comes to discovering your passions and getting involved! If you already have a strong extracurricular profile, now is a good time to scale it up and recruit peers to help grow the initiative.

Ways to Organize Your Time

While you may already have larger goals set like where you want to attend college or what you want to study, smaller goals are just as important. Without small goals, accomplishing large goals becomes nearly impossible.

Consider downloading some time management and organizational tools like Todoist, Trello, and Focus Booster. Utilizing study methods like the Pomodoro Technique is another fantastic way to boost productivity and see the tangible results you may be looking for.

One piece of advice that certainly never fails: take it one step at a time. It’s been scientifically proven that human beings simply cannot multitask. Sure, we can do a few things at once, but it’s usually by rotating back and forth between two tasks. One way to ensure productivity is to remain focused on one task at a time. Think about what needs to be done first, and focus on that until the task until completed. Then simply reevaluate what needs to be done next, and continue until your to-do list is gone!

Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health

Maintaining a strong balance of school work, your applications, time with friends and family, and time to yourself is incredibly important. Looking after your mental health during college applications is essential. If you gain admission to your dream school but your mental health begins to suffer, you may not feel well enough to attend in the fall.

If you are looking to decrease your stress level and become more focused, consider meditating! If you are new to meditation, it is very likely that you will find it hard to sit in silence, be still, and do nothing. Our brains are constantly running and it takes great effort to get our thoughts to slow down. With deadlines, exams, and ongoing to-do lists, it’s important to take time throughout the day to just sit and be.

Mindfulness researchers at Harvard have seen that consistent meditation helped people sleep better, feel less stressed, and experience fewer symptoms of depression. Curious to try it out? Beginners find guided meditation as a great way to get familiar with meditation and learn mindfulness techniques. Using apps like headspace and Calm is a great way to get started. While it may be a little unfamiliar at first, we have good news! There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation - what’s important is that you’re taking time for yourself.

Can’t sit still? Yoga is a great way to practice meditation through movement. Apps like 5 Minute Yoga offer quick and challenging yoga flows to help break up the day.

Another fantastic way to clear your mind is through exercise! Exercise (no matter what kind) has been proven to increase your endorphins, increase your heart rate, and help you sleep better at night. Whether you’re a track athlete or a beginner at running, apps like Runkeeper are a great way to set goals, track your progress, and keep you, as well as your friends accountable! Not a runner? That’s okay! Walking and hiking are just as beneficial. Chances are you live pretty close to some beautiful trails whether urban or alpine! AllTrails is a great way to explore the outdoors, see new parts of your state, and clear your mind.

Already a pro at meditation, yoga, running, and hiking? Consider learning a new instrument! Websites like teoría make learning the fundamentals of music easy! Whether you’re looking to expand your knowledge of intervals, chords, and scales, or starting from scratch, there are countless resources online available to help you become the next Beethoven. Interested in STEM? Knowing how to read music has been proven to improve your cognition and math skills. Sounds like a win-win!

We are in the midst of a global pandemic and maintaining a good state of mind is essential. The good news is that admissions officers around the world are aware of the obstacles that students are facing this application cycle, and they are doing their best to adapt to and accommodate different needs, requests, and expectations.

To learn more about taking care of your mental health and obtaining the skills to take care of yourself and your peers, check out You can also check them out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!


If you are nervous about the new school year just around the corner, remember that you are not alone. Students across the country - and the world - are experiencing some of the same thoughts and feelings. Remember your worth, continue to grow, and keep your head up! The future is bright… we promise!