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Back to School Advice from an Expert Tutor

By Richard, IvyWise Master Tutor

This back-to-school season, I think it’s important for students to take a step back and get inspired by a few pieces of advice that have helped many students in the past and remain valuable for everyone, no matter where they are in their educational journey.

Students need to focus on the things that matter most to them and give themselves permission to work as hard as they can at those things. But these do not need to be the same conclusions that each person draws. Hopefully this back-to-school advice will entertain and prompt some reflection, and perhaps even serve as food for thought for anyone who needs to recenter themselves on what matters to them and go after it!

Focus on What Is Within Your Control 

In uncertain times, it can help not to concentrate too much on what’s in the news. We have to give ourselves permission to focus and keep working on what is important to us, rather than thinking too much about what is not in our control. I have found that there is a happy medium that will be healthiest for students and families who are navigating uncertain times: think about what matters most to you and then focus on doing your best at everything that is within your control for those items. For students, this will include your grades, activities, writing, earning recommendations that highlight your fullest potential, and of course standardized tests when you eventually get to take them! For all that seems out of your control now, when you look really hard you see that there’s a lot you can influence now, especially with your college prep.

The Competition Is Going Up – What are You Doing in Response? 

The college admissions cycles have been fairly unpredictable since the 2020-2021 cycle. Many top universities have been doing unusual things when it comes to admitting students – from adjusting their approach to holistic admissions due to test-optional policies to reevaluating institutional needs in light of enrollment and gap year results. Don’t be surprised if things continue to change or competition for admission goes up next year. Some schools are already ending test optional policies while others may continue indefinitely. This means that now more than ever, students need to ensure that not only are they focusing on what’s in their control but also doing it really well. This means continuing test prep if you plan to test this fall or next spring, making an impact in your activities, and finding new ways to explore your interests if your usual extracurriculars are stalled. Students will be happiest if they can look back and say that they did everything that was in their power to get the best possible results. Work to achieve your goals and be ready!

Take on Passion Projects

It’s always a great time to think about this question: What can I do to learn something and prepare for the best parts of the future that I want to create? Whether it’s schoolwork, a personal project, or community service, what can you do and learn on your own, going above and beyond the expectations of your school? What passion projects can you do? Colleges like to see grit, and they love to see students pursuing their passions – even in the simplest ways possible. Whether it’s just reading more on a topic of interest or finding an independent project that helps you broaden your experience, there are many different ways to take on a passion project this back-to-school season. The team at IvyWise can help you find new ways to explore your interests, with a dedicated mentor to guide you through the process step-by-step.

Reflect on Past Advice That Matters Most to You

A few of my favorite pieces of advice include:

  • “You can always take one more step… and then, one more step after that.”
  • “It’s okay to fall down. Take your time and let it settle down. Then get back on the horse.”
  • “Always try to keep doing something you love.” 

These are some of my favorites, but what is most important is, what is the advice that matters to you? What quotes or inspirational words really motivate you? When we can define our own mission – even if it’s just for the next month or two – this can help each of us to center ourselves and work to reach excellence in whatever is most important to us. This leads me to the best advice I can share: You should always remember that whatever you have achieved so far, you are capable of much, much more in the future. Keep up the great work and you’ll keep seeing the results!

This is a strange time for everyone, and we know that students are anxious about how current events will affect their college admissions journey. The IvyWise team of expert counselors and tutors is here to help you through your admissions journey, from support with academics, independent projects, college applications, and more. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you make the most of what’s in your control this back-to-school season.

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