Effective July 20, 2021, USCIS eliminated a prior policy that required applicants applying to change their status to F-1 student to file "bridge" applications while their change of status to F-1 applications were pending. USCIS issued a July 20, 2021 news release and updated their Changing to F or M Student Status webpage and policy manual. it's important to note that this does not impact policy regarding change to J-1 status.
According to the USCIS announcement: "Under the previous policy, applicants needed to maintain status up to 30 days before the program start date listed on their Form I-20, Certificate for Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, which required them to file extensions, or an initial COS and subsequent extensions ensuring that they would not have a "gap" in status.
To prevent a "gap" in status, USCIS will grant the change of status to F-1 effective the day we approve an applicant's Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. If we approve an application more than 30 days before the student's program start date, the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time. An example of a violation would be engaging in employment, including on-campus employment, more than 30 days before the program start date as listed on their Form I-20."