college student with mask for COVIDHow COVID is Changing 2020-21 Admissions
Into the Planet book coverAdvice from a Deep-Sea Cave Explorer on Facing Daunting Challenges

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

The pandemic did not stop us from helping our students craft exciting, engaged summers packed with activities that truly contributed to their personal growth (and will surely impress admissions readers). To give you a brief sampling, last summer:

  • One of our students aided Oxford University researchers identify tuberculosis in slide images from Peru, Vietnam, India, South Africa, China, Italy and the UK, helping to determine which antibiotics are effective against the bacteria, still one of the top ten causes of death in the world.
  • Another was a digital volunteer for the Smithsonian, helping make biodiversity data and historical documents more accessible to the public.
  • A few participated in a Columbia University class on Big Data and Machine Learning. With this experience on their resumes, they are now poised to apply for tech internships this summer. A nice capstone!
  • Then there’s all the incredible volunteering they’ve been doing: raising $2,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank (and getting a letter of appreciation from the CEO), cooking meals for clients at homeless shelters (sometimes it’s a family affair!), and teaching free classes for underprivileged kids in physics, software programming, literature, embroidery, and more.

I’ve been so impressed by our students’ ability to pivot from conventional summer plans and do amazing things, even with the severe limitations. It was a true joy to see them gain confidence and become more happy as they tested themselves.

Then again, I’m not surprised that they thrived under less-than-ideal conditions. I recently listened to a podcast on “The Resilient Brain” from To The Best of Our Knowledge featuring neuroscientist David Eagleman, who explains that when the pandemic first hit, we suddenly found ourselves “kicked off the hamster wheel.” With our everyday routines disrupted, we had “to really rethink things and relearn things and be creative.” Eagleman considers this rethinking and relearning a great thing, stating: “This is, by the way, the only silver lining to this pandemic – the fact that we’re getting a lot of brain plasticity out of it.”

After listening to this interview, I realized that when I observed our students advancing in so many ways last summer, I was seeing neuroplasticity in play! How cool is that? Such adaptability gives clear evidence to top colleges that a student is prepared for the real world. Planning one’s summer with intent, creativity, and flexibility is essential for today’s student.

Pandemic or no pandemic, believe it or not, it’s time to start planning for Summer 2021 and exercise that plasticity yet again.

As we are with all of our students, we are preparing “A” and “B” plans depending on what’s happening with pandemic restrictions this summer.

If you’d like assistance for your child in planning a summer leading to personal growth and admissions success, we can help! The earlier you start the process, the better your chances of getting into your dream school!

If you’d like assistance for your child in planning a summer leading to personal growth and admissions success, we can help!

About the Author: Amy Morgenstern

Dr. Amy Morgenstern, affectionately known as Dr. M, is the founder and CEO of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and an MFA in contemporary art. A former professor of philosophy, honors program associate director, and assistant to the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Dr. M brings a wealth of academic and multicultural experience to her practice.

Free Workbook for Students

Blue Stars College Planning Foundations Workbook

Start today! Go through these strategic exercises to help you sketch out your plans for all four years of high school.

  • Learn key traits important to top colleges.
  • Write your first personal narrative
  • Branch out, exploring interests and defining activities.
  • Set goals and create your 4-year college planning timeline.

Fill out the form to get the workbook.

Resources to help teens and their families navigate the college admission process



Live Webinars

Our collection of stories, interviews, and tips provides insight and strategies to navigate the complex college planning and application process.

Learn, be inspired, and cultivate personal growth. From campus tours to interviews with former Blue Start students, choose the video that resonates with your personal journey.

Join us in our next webinar about college prep and other college related themes.

Make the college application process less stressful and more successful

Start early.

Find out how we can help