It’s not an easy time to attend college. Students have to grapple with a combination of challenges they probably never faced before, from the difficulties of online learning to isolation from friends and family because of lockdowns.
Although colleges are slowly easing out of the fully remote mode of instruction, many students- especially international students- are still taking a course load that is fully or mostly online. If you’re one of them, you’re probably wondering how to thrive in this new environment. Here are 10 tips that helped me that I hope will help you too.
1. Develop a study routine
For many people, college is the first time they have complete flexibility over their time. This is especially true now since many classes are asynchronous, so you don’t even have to attend lectures.
For this reason, establishing a study routine is crucial: it allows you to consistently work on assignments and stay on top of your work. Moreover, routines are also important for your mental health.
One of the best tools for creating a study routine is a calendar. You can use Google calendar or the calendar app on your phone to schedule classes, office hours, study sessions and group meetings.
2. Get involved in extracurriculars
Participating in extracurriculars offers many benefits: you can connect with people with similar interests, take a break from academics, and develop various skills. The social benefits of participating in extracurriculars are especially useful now, as you may not have as many opportunities to meet new people as you would’ve had in a normal semester.
One way to get involved is by joining clubs and organizations. You can have a look at your college’s online roster of all the registered clubs and organizations and reach out to the ones you like. Starting a creative project- like a blog or YouTube channel- is also a great idea.
3. Be intentional about dealing with stress
Back in high school, my go-to strategy for dealing with stress was binging on junk food. This is unhealthy and not very effective, which is why I made the commitment to be more intentional about managing negative emotions.
One of the best things you can do when you’re feeling stressed is to reach out to people who can best help you with it. For example, if you’re overwhelmed by the syllabus for a test, discussing some study strategies with the professors, TAs or tutors for the class can help.
Journaling is another useful stress management technique. You can set aside a few minutes to write down everything that’s bothering you and think about some potential solutions to these problems.
4. Get some exercise
Regular exercise is linked with better focus, mood, and overall physical and mental health. Even 15-20 minutes every day can be immensely beneficial. Given that it’s not the best time to hit the gym, you can instead follow one of the numerous exercise tutorials available on YouTube (FitnessBlender is my favourite).
5. Organize your digital space
During the first week of the semester, you’ll probably receive a flood of emails and other communications from your instructors about the course syllabus, assignments, Zoom links, and so on. If you don’t have a proper system for organizing your schoolwork, it’s easy for you to miss important dates and deadlines.
This is why a good practice is to schedule a time to process emails. During this time, note down any tasks you have to complete along with their deadlines.
There’s no shortage of software for helping you with your organization efforts. For task management, apps/websites like Trello, Todoist, Habitica and Google Tasks work great. To organize course materials like lecture notes, textbooks and handouts, you can use Google Drive, OneDrive or Dropbox.
6. Organize your physical space
Having an organized physical workspace makes it easier for you to find the things you need. It also makes your workspace look nicer which, if you’re like me, can help with study motivation.
One thing you can do is only keep the materials that you regularly access (like stationery) on your desk to ensure that it doesn’t get cluttered. It’s also helpful to keep all the textbooks and notebooks you need this semester in one place.
7. Figure out which learning styles work best for you
Some people learn better in groups while others learn better alone. Some students grasp concepts more easily when they are listening to someone explaining it while others prefer reading about them. Figuring out which learning styles work best for you and implementing them will help you thrive academically.
You can do this by trying different techniques to see which ones you like. Alternatively, you can also take online quizzes, like the one on Eureka (you might need a school ID to access this) and ThoughtCo.
8. Start your day the right way
There’s some truth to the statement that your mornings set the tone for the whole day. This is why practising habits like making your bed, drinking water, and not skipping breakfast can have a significant positive impact on the rest of your day.
9. Sleep right
Sleep affects every area of our lives. Not getting enough high-quality sleep can make it difficult for you to focus, worsen your mood, constantly make you feel tired, and more. This is why it’s important to get it right.
Consistency is highly important: make sure to go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day. One practice that is relevant now more than ever is to separate your study room and bedroom (if you can). Your brain would find it difficult to shut down if it associates your bedroom with college or work-related stress.
10. Make the most out of the resources and opportunities your school provides
You can go to your college’s website to take note of all the available resources and opportunities. These include mental health support, additional tutoring, online library services, list of clubs/organizations, interesting classes, and more. The best we can do during these difficult times is to make the most of the resources and opportunities available to us.