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Tips to Thrive in Online Classes This Semester

College is stressful enough as it is. But adding online classes on top of all of your other commitments can be really difficult. I want to help ease that stress and hopefully provide some useful tips for how to handle this semester, especially for people who don’t know how to even begin with online classes! I was lucky enough to be one of the few people who has had a lot of online class experience and over the years I’ve picked up a few tricks that help me to manage my time and maintain my grades. 


In my experience staying organized in a virtual world of chaos can be difficult but never impossible. I always start out by making myself a weekly schedule and blocking my time where I have class, meetings, and work. After I have those big chunks blocked off I find it easier to fit in time for homework and having fun. A great way to keep yourself organized is by using a planner or downloading a free app like Google Calendar


Using apps and planning tools will help you to not only remember when you have commitments, but also when you have time to work on your assignments. I personally tend to work on the assignments due soonest and if I become bored or overwhelmed with that particular assignment, I break up the mundanity with an assignment I can get through quickly. That always makes me feel more productive and less fidgety. I like to keep a weekly checklist of my assignments ordered by their due date that way as I finish something I get to cross it off the list which is very satisfying in the end. 

Related: Back to School: Excelling in Online Classes

Show Your Face 

With everything being virtual it can be very difficult for students to make a personal connection with their classmates and professors. That being said, I also know that with classes being online it's an easy way to just turn on your laptop and turn off your brain. Doing that can really end up taking a toll on your grade if you find yourself not knowing what's going on. My advice is to be as engaged as possible. We’ve all had those classes with the long awkward silences. Challenge yourself and be the one to fill it. Take notes while your professor is teaching, have your camera on and show your professor you’re there to learn. If you make an effort to gain a lot from the class your professor will notice that and you’ll probably end up doing better overall as a student. 

Study Groups 

Typically it’s not hard to find a couple of friends in class that you can share notes with. It might be a bit more difficult this semester to get connected. I suggest maybe using your classes’ email lists and asking if anyone would be interested in a virtual study group. It doesn’t have to be anything where you video chat if you aren’t into that, but maybe it’s a group wiki where everyone can contribute their notes. One of your classmates may have learned something you didn’t pick up. It’s also a great way to make friends!

Find a Space 

This one might be obvious, but finding a space in which you can focus and learn is key to success. I know it’s tempting to just lay in bed and go to class in your pajamas, but if you get up, get dressed, and go somewhere you don’t associate with sleep it can really help your brain to get into learning mode. It can also help to put your phone in a drawer and turn off your notifications on your laptop. When you’re free of distractions it makes it harder to lose yourself in thought and much easier to focus on what your professor is saying.

Take a Break!

My final piece of advice is to take a break! Digital burnout is real. Especially when you’re online in class for hours at a time only to finish and do your homework online as well. Maybe go grab a cup of coffee with one of your friends (socially distanced of course). Take an evening and do a face mask, make some hot cocoa and listen to your favorite album. Make time to get out and take care of yourself. It can be really easy to be wrapped up in your studies but there needs to be a balance for you to be as successful as possible.

Hopefully these tips can help you to succeed in your online classes this semester. I know it can be difficult, but if you have faith in yourself and try things that help you to focus you’ll find your groove and do great!

Jordan Lear

George Mason University '22

Jordan is a senior at George Mason University. She's pursuing a degree in Communication with a concentration in Media Production and Criticism and a minor in Film and Media Studies. Jordan loves to hang out with her friends and try to make them laugh. She's pretty outgoing and will totally talk your ear off if you mention one of her many random obsessions.
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