Road to College: Emerging Issues in Education & How Your Student Can Adapt


One year since starting this column, we find ourselves facing much different circumstances. The road to college remains an ever-changing journey, but much remains constant at the core. In maintaining focus on cultivating strong study skills, preparing to achieve optimal standardized test scores, choosing appropriate and challenging courses, exploring future major and career options, and planning for other essential college preparation milestones, your student can continue to be ready for each step along the way, even in the midst of unforeseen obstacles. With this in mind, it is still vital to track and be aware of the changing dynamics occurring presently, and to understand what that may mean for your student.

The abrupt switch to online learning platforms for much of the country has posed issues for students and educators alike. Though teachers have certainly been working to support students as best they can while adapting lesson plans and assessments to a novel format, students will develop content gaps due to reduced overall instruction time and less profound outside learning opportunities. While this problem may seem small at the present moment, it can easily begin to snowball into grade fluctuations or a lack of understanding of key topics assessed in later coursework or standardized tests. Students can begin to address these expected gaps by supplementing their current learning with outside support. Resources such as Barron’s subject review books, Khan Academy’s video lessons, local tutoring services, and enrichment enterprises such as Novella Prep, where we hone in on individual learning goals relative to each student, can keep your student on par with expected learning outcomes. Reflecting on their own current learning practices and outcomes during this time, students can best identify the areas where they should focus their energy and time to cultivate success. But, they will not do this unprompted.

Younger students, in particular, can take this time to focus on “skilling up” in fundamental learning areas through various digital experiences. Seeking outside virtual volunteering or internship opportunities can not only help bolster student learning and skill development with relevant experiences, but additionally assist local businesses and organizations during this difficult time. Novella Prep’s public Digital Experience web page aims to connect students to the local community through listing these available opportunities in a one-stop location. Collaborating in this mutually beneficial way as a community, students, families, and local industries can work through this uncertainty together in creative and exciting ways.

For juniors looking to cultivate college application lists, this can be an especially difficult and complicated time. Similarly to those seniors making college enrollment decisions without in-person open houses or additional campus visits, juniors can approach this process methodically using schools’ available virtual tours and online admissions events. Students have it within them to create and narrow college lists by assessing the aspects of an ideal school that they value most. In identifying the components that will make their college experience successful both during their time on-campus and beyond, students can create a guiding list of the top qualities they require in an institution, narrowing their search in meaningful ways.

As the Fall 2020 semester nears and the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt, some seniors may be questioning their enrollment options. Students should seriously consider whether, if faced with a semester (or more) of online learning at their chosen future institution, they would still wish to pursue their course of study at that school. For those considering a gap semester or year, we suggest learning more about schools’ deferment policies, and weighing some of the pros and cons of such a decision. Taking time to identify clearer academic or professional paths before pursuing an undergraduate degree may be beneficial for certain students during this uncertain time, but this decision may not be right for all students.

We will continue to monitor these and other emerging trends as the fields of higher and secondary education continue to change and adapt over the coming months with your students’ success in mind. The road to college may be muddled with uncertainty right now, but know that the core elements addressed in this column persist.

Tony Di Giacomo, Ph.D. is an educator and founder of Novella Prep. He has twenty years of experience working in admissions, development, teaching, and research at various universities. You can reach him at

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About the Author: Tony Di Giacomo, Ph.D.