As the 2021/22 academic year draws closer, many students are looking back on the extraordinary challenges they faced in 2020/21. How will the new school year compare? And yet, at the same time, vaccinations are helping to control the coronavirus pandemic, and many in-person events and activities that pandemic safety had relegated to online formats are returning. There’s an excitement at the thought of “going back to normal,” leading many to wonder if this new year will be similar to fall 2019. So which will it be? Will fall 2021 be a continuation of what we saw last year? Or a return to 2019 standards? The answer is likely somewhere in the middle. Let’s have a look:

Compared to fall 2020…

…fall 2021 is going to include a lot more in-person interaction, and feel a lot more “normal”—which is something many students and their families can look forward to! Most schools, private and public, are planning a return to full-time, in-person classes. Extracurricular activities are also back on the menu, including school clubs and sports. Students over 12 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meaning many will be feeling vastly more comfortable socializing.

For those who were in person for at least part of the 2020-21 academic year, the coming fall is also far less likely to have any “stop-and-start” switches to remote learning. This is helpful for students who value not only time with their friends and face-to-face interactions with their teachers, but a consistent learning environment to help them focus.

All in all, the 2021-22 academic year is going to look a lot more “normal” than the year before it! However…

Compared to fall 2019…

…students can still expect a lot of differences. While school is likely to be full time and in person for the vast majority of students, many schools are also keeping a remote learning option open for those who want it. If you’re a student who’s thrived on remote learning, this is good news! You can keep the option that works best for you, even as your classmates return to in-person. Just remember to keep up communication with your teachers, and keep in touch with your friends doing in-person school—they probably miss you!

Moreover, even as vaccines and control measures have led to a far greater “return to normalcy” as compared to fall 2020, the coronavirus pandemic is not yet over, and students can expect some safety precautions to remain in place. Some of these will be put in place by each individual school, including greater social distancing between desks in the classroom, hand sanitizer and disinfectant available on hand, and greater ventilation in the school building itself. Others will be personal measures taken by individual students, such as mask wearing, or taking extra precautions around certain activities. Schools may also exercise a greater degree of caution around crowded events, including sporting events, school dances, and school plays. Whatever the case, it’s important not only to respect your school’s rules and precautions, but to be considerate towards your classmates and the efforts they’re taking to feel safe.

Students working together

Fall 2021 won’t look exactly like a pre-pandemic school year, even as it offers far greater freedom and more opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom, than fall 2020. Students may even want to check in with an academic counselor, like our experts at A-List, to manage their expectations. However, so long as schools and students exercise caution and keep in line with public health advice, they can look forward to a school year full of academic and social opportunities, learning, and fun!