This is the third blog in a series of back-to-school posts in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year. Last spring, COVID-19 led to school closures across the nation. Naturally, I began to hear frustrations like these from my friends who were attending public school: “Urgh, we’re switching to pass or fail.” “I was relying on my junior year transcript to get into the college I want.” “I can’t learn online. I have no motivation.” “My 80-year old teacher doesn’t know how to use Zoom!” Fortunately, I did not have the same challenges. I attended public school until I was a sophomore in high school when my family moved to South Korea. I still wanted to pursue an American education, but the international boarding schools in South Korea were a major financial undertaking. Many students who were abruptly forced into online learning due to COVID-19 are now dealing with the same motivational struggles I experienced when I first switched schools. However, I unknowingly trained myself in time management and organizational skills with ALVS. Although it was a drastic change for me, we decided the best available option in our situation was to enroll in Apex Learning Virtual School (ALVS). I was uncertain about the decision at first, but once I switched to ALVS, things changed. I never received a tardy. I never felt restricted in my studies, and I never forgot my heavy textbooks at home. The process of adapting to a virtual curriculum introduced me to different freedoms and new responsibilities. When I attended public school, I was limited to a strict set of courses and there were restrictions on upper-division courses. For example, I was only able to take AP European History during my sophomore year. And many of the advanced classes would fill up quickly, limiting the number of students who could pursue the courses, which was very disappointing. With ALVS I have the opportunity to review the catalog myself, and the many available courses, and design my schedule according to my interests. All I had to do was email my counselor, and I was enrolled the next day without a question. As a result, I was able to pursue six AP courses, which significantly aided me in the process of exploring different fields and discovering my true interest: international relations. My interest for this interdisciplinary study required exposure to numerous fields and could not have been possible with the diverse exposure to subjects offered through ALVS. Having the flexibility to take multiple courses, I was able to challenge myself much more than if I had stayed in my public high school, and I have the opportunity to achieve to my full potential. But taking ALVS courses does provide an unexpected immediate sense of freedom. If I want to sleep in until noon, no one is going to stop me. I believe the process of initially adapting to online school is a course in and of itself. I had to learn the fundamentals of finding the motivation to complete my work and overcome procrastination. Self-discipline is the key to taking advantage of online learning. Many students who were abruptly forced into online learning due to COVID-19 are now dealing with the same motivational struggles I experienced when I first switched schools. However, I unknowingly trained myself in time management and organizational skills with ALVS. Switching to ALVS one year ago is one of the best decisions I could have made in light of the current circumstances. And the qualities online students develop will carry us throughout high school, college and well into our careers. The future is uncertain with the spread of the virus during these unprecedented times, and there is a significant possibility that all schools will be online, even after COVID-19 is hopefully resolved. If so, ALVS students will certainly have an advantage due to their familiarity with online learning, online testing, and self-guided work. For example, I aced my AP tests, and I feel prepared for the online ACT. Even if life does return to normal, the qualities ALVS students can develop using online schooling will benefit them for the rest of their lives. The academic rigor, flexibility and self-motivation required in ALVS courses has challenged me to develop in both my intellectual and self-discipline. And now, I feel confident to navigate any obstacles that the future—no matter how uncertain— may bring. About the author: Eileen Yoon is a junior in high school and a winner of the Jack Babani Scholarship for the 2020-2021 school year. She will attend Apex Learning Virtual School this fall.