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The Pandemic Semester(s)

At long last, 2020 is on its way out. This long and stressful year has felt like a decade crammed into ten short months, with everyone having to adapt to multiple disruptions to daily life due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the onset of the nation-wide lockdowns in mid-March, most (if not all) colleges and universities made the decision to offer entirely online curriculums after evacuating their student populations off of campus. Stay-at-home orders have college students locking down in their own bedrooms instead of attending class and studying in the library or other popular campus locations. This lack of engagement with their university culture combined with the comforts of home can make it very difficult for many students to remain focused and productive this semester. Unfortunately, this state of affairs is likely to continue well in 2021. A recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the country will likely result in many schools closing down their physical locations and choosing to remain online following winter break. So, while you reboot your Zoom app and prepare for yet another semester online, take a look at these tips on how to remain successful!

1.    Create a space

If you are able, creating a space that is dedicated solely to schoolwork is a great way to channel that classroom feeling. Try using this space only to attend your online classes and finish up homework, essays, and projects. A soothing, calming space used for school can go a long way in helping you stay focused while staying home.

2.    Communicate

Everyone is under many different kinds of stressors right now. If you find yourself having trouble understanding material, or keeping up with the course load, reach out to your professors! A kind and caring professor will work with you in order for you to have the highest amount of success possible, whether this is through one-on-one study sessions, assignment extensions, etc.,

3.    Use your resources

Universities are doing their best to continue to offer their normal services through online technology. Tutoring is frequently available online, as are other resources such as career centers, libraries, and mental health services. If you are studying at home, it is important to utilize these services and resources if you are feeling disconnected from your academic work.

4.    Arrange online study sessions

One important way to maintain your sense of community throughout pandemic college is to keep connected with your friends and classmates! A great way to do this is through scheduled online study sessions and social hours. Not only do you get to reconnect with some of your friends you haven’t seen since your last time on campus, you can turn into productive study time so you all pass the semester!

5.    Keep track of your mental health

It is no secret that this pandemic has heightened existing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, particularly amongst the student demographic. If this is your experience, it is important to remember that you are not alone! If possible, utilize your school’s mental health and counseling services, or find a therapist in your community that could be beneficial to you.

A college student studies in her bedroom.
Attending college throughout a pandemic can be stressful, but it is not impossible! Image courtesy of  6.    Take breaks  

6.    Take breaks  

Although you may not feel like you are in college, your coursework probably says otherwise. The demands of college courses have not changed, and it is important that you stay on top of things. Avoid school-related burnout by taking frequent breaks and resting as needed. Stuck writing a lengthy research paper? Stepping away from your laptop for a quick snack or a brisk walk can do wonders for restoring your focus and temporarily healing your mind, preparing you to attack your next task.

7.    Keep a routine

Amidst all the chaos of the world, it is important that you give yourself a sense of routine and normalcy when it comes to school (even if you never leave your bed during class!). If your classes are scheduled and synchronous, part of this is already done for you! However, if your classes are asynchronous and your grade relies on weekly discussion posts, forming a regular routine can help you stay ahead on all of your assignments and keep you from falling behind in the class. You will thank yourself later!

8.    Practice self-care

If school (and life in general) becomes too much, it is important to step back and take care of yourself. When assignments become too overwhelming that your brain feels numb, step away from the schoolwork and practice self-care. This looks different for everyone, just find your favorite hobby (painting, exercise, binging a favorite TV show, reading, etc.,) and go for it! After this short time of taking care of yourself, you will feel re-energized and ready to refocus.

9.    Be patient

Times right now are not easy on anyone. To remain successful, it is important to remain patient not only with yourself, but with others as well (professors, classmates, and family come to mind in this instance). If you feel that you are not working up to your normal standard, it is perfectly okay to cut yourself a bit of a slack in this regard. Putting your best foot forward looks different every day, so be kind to yourself on the days where you are feeling down.

Animation of a college graduate working hard.
Be proud of yourself for focusing on your education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of

No matter what you are studying, or what school looks like for you now, it is important to remain focused and committed to your end goal. While current college life may not be what you expected it to be, it is still a great opportunity for you to embrace. Consider yourself brave and resilient for being able to manage all of this stress during a pandemic, and for facing the unique challenges the consequences of the pandemic have posed.