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The Pandemic University Survival Guide

In these uncertain times, with the new format of courses being solely online, it is hard to adjust to this new normal. Every university and college is making its own unique plan to help students and professors make it through this uncertain time. 


Even when classes were in the traditional setup, organization is key to keep track of assignments, class times, office hours, and projects. 


There are many customizable planners out there that are designed to fit your unique style of keeping things organized. 

Erin Condren: https://www.erincondren.com/ 

This company has many types of planners that can help you keep track of academics and life outside of school. There is a life planner for all aspects of your life and a separate academic planner. Each planner has customizable options, such as hourly or block scheduling formats. You can also decide whether you want a coiled, binder, or softbound planner. One of the best things about these planners is the paper that is used, it is quite thick which makes it nearly impossible for the ink to bleed through to the next page. Check out their Instagram, @erincondren.

Passion Planner: https://passionplanner.com/ 

This planner is centered on the idea of helping people figure out what they want from life and their career. With that central idea, the planner has a page that explains the system of the Passion Roadmap, this technique is dedicated to helping you find what it is that you want within a few different time stretches like in 3 months, a year, 3 years, and in your lifetime. This can be really helpful in helping you decipher your goals and priorities and figure out who you are. This planner has several different formats of academic, annual, and undated. The company offers worksheets that you can use to help map out what you want or just a reflection of your week. 

Notebooks and Binders:

Have a notebook for every class and a binder or a folder to be able to separate each course’s materials and notes. The separation will help you to be able to switch from each subject more seamlessly. If money is tight a simple filing system hack is to just get a pack of construction paper and use the construction paper to divide up subjects. You can even use this as a divider trick in binders. 

Desk Organization

Having a dedicated space to do your schoolwork will help a lot as we were conditioned before the pandemic to think of home as a place to relax and not be in top-notch focus. 

If you like to sit at your desk when you are not doing homework or schoolwork, think about changing your perspective a little! When you decide to chill out at your sit on the opposite side from where you sit when you are doing homework. I have just started doing this myself and it has helped to keep things more separate and helped me to stay on task. 

Make a Schedule 

Create a schedule and stick to it to help ease stress and create balance. With a routine, your brain knows what to expect from day-to-day. An easy way to create a schedule is to use excel or sheets to block out the time. It might take some trial and error but you will find a routine that works for you. 

Get dressed!

Just the motions of getting up and getting ready as if you were going to class like it was any other day can help give your brain the time it needs to realize that it is time to work. Many people when they are at home relaxing are more often wearing comfy loungewear compared to their usual on the job style. Even though you are at home it might help you to make this action a daily occurrence to help distinguish between relaxing and on the clock. Getting dressed can improve your mood and adjust your focus from chilling to work time. 


Fireflies ai: https://fireflies.ai/ 

A program that joins into your online classes in formats like  Zoom and will record the course for you. When your class is done, the recording will upload and show a transcript of what was said and enable you to notes. 

Color Coding:

Color coding consistently can help make your notes more accessible to you. I began to make a color-coding system during my freshman year that I still use in my senior year. Everyone is different, so it might take some time to create and find what works best for you, but it is worth it in the end. My recommendation for some awesome pens to help with color-coding are the PaperMate Felt Tip Flair pens that come in an assortment of colors and they last a really long time. 

Cornell Notes:

This technique is helpful, especially when taking notes from a textbook. The system has 3 sections, 2 columns, and a section at the end of your notes for a summary. The first column is significantly smaller and only goes to about a third of the page and is label cue. In the Cue section, you would write the section headers from your textbook along with any questions that you have; you can also include keywords, main points, important people. Next to the Cue column, you will have your Notes column which is the largest section on the page. Just like you would expect, the notes column is where you will write your notes. The last section, the summary at the bottom is where you would sum up your thoughts on what you have just read. 

Check out http://lsc.cornell.edu/how-to-study/taking-notes/cornell-note-taking-system/ they have some good videos on this technique to help you get started. 

Pens/Writing Utensils 

With everything online now, it is good to do some work offline with a good old fashioned pen or pencil and paper. To make things more comfortable, you should invest in some gel grips for your favorite/most used pens or pencils to ease the writing fatigue. There are some great grips at (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001SN8HOY/?tag=reviewscon-20) EzGrip ResQ Gel Pen and PILOT Dr. Grip Center of Gravity are gel pens that are equipped with soft gel grips to lessen the strain of writing. 

Spin, Spin, Spin till you just can’t anymore

A few years back, fidget spinners became a fun toy for anyone who was looking to deal with that nervous energy during class in a way that was not disruptive. Now with the pandemic, the anxious energy is with us almost 24/7. To have something to fidget with while in your online class will help calm your nerves, so… reach for that fidget spinner and let the worry wash away. 

Computer Screen Strain

One of the most common complaints of the transition to working from home and doing school online is headaches and eye strain from the extended use of the computer. You might ask, what is blue light? Well, according to Havard Health, “Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night.” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side)

The best-rated pair of blue light glasses are the Gamma-Ray Blue Light Blocking Glasses Amber Tint Anti Glare UV Digital Eyestrain. These can be found at: https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-blue-light-blocking-glasses.html. If you already have prescription glasses that you wear, you can ask your optometrist to have a coating or a film added to have the blue light filtered out. 

20-20-20 Rule 

This is a really simple thing that you can do to help deter eye strain. So every 20 minutes you look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Hence the name, 20-20-20 rule!

Healthy Spine, Healthy Life

The spine is the center of all the nerves in your body and one tweak can save you some pain and days of feeling sore. Having a setup for academics that is ergonomic can make all the difference. This can be as simple as raising your laptop to eye level so you are not hunching over. With your computer raised to eye-level, it might feel awkward to type on your keyboard, so it would be best to invest in an external keyboard and mouse. This will allow you to continue to have your laptop/computer at a proper height and your arms at a comfortable level which will help keep you in good posture. Chairs and or seat cushions can help make long days at the computer less painful and backbreaking. The ergonomic chairs that are most recommended for long hours are ones that have a high back with a structure that most resembles the natural curvature of the spine to support your back in the proper upright posture. When you are sitting in the proper posture, everything falls into place; just like a puzzle!

If you need help, ask 

Just like you, professors are in the same boat and are understanding that in these times there is significantly more stress. Many professors would appreciate emails asking for clarification for assignments, rather than having emails asking for extensions because you did not understand the assignment. It is better to ask for help than to struggle and stress out about whether or not you are completing the assignment correctly. 

Check out your college’s tutoring center 

Check out the options that they have available like online paper reviews or Zoom tutoring sessions to keep up with course work and better understand the class material. Many professors are in touch with the tutoring center and supply assignment sheets, the syllabus, and any other materials that might be helpful for tutors to help students with their course work. One of the many other upsides to the tutoring center is that many of the tutors have taken the course that you are coming in for and know the professor and the grading style which can be a big help when you are nervous about a paper. 


I was born and raised in southern California. I will graduate in Spring 2021 with a bachelor's in Elementary Education and in Winter 2021 with a master's in Educational Leadership. I hope to teach in Hawaii for a few years before getting a master's in business administration.
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