The start of the school year usually elicits the same feelings in students year after year: nervousness and uncertainty. This fall semester, those emotions are sure to be magnified as schools across the country transition to a virtual learning model. College students everywhere are currently preparing for a semester unlike any other. In a year of firsts, this upcoming fall will be no exception. Completing this semester remotely will undoubtedly bring about challenges as the lines between demanding schoolwork and the distractions of home life become blurred.
Although this semester will be conducted virtually, there are still ways to ensure that you stay organized so that you don’t put yourself through any unnecessary stress. Last spring taught me a few lessons on how to stay focused so that I don’t become easily distracted by what is going on in my house. It was difficult at first, especially since my siblings were not following the same schedule as me and I always knew snacks were waiting for me downstairs! Still, it’s important to try and stay as focused as possible so that your schoolwork doesn’t suffer. Here are a few things I learned last semester so that you too can face this fall with ease!
- Buy a planner
I was never the type of person who wrote out all my assignments in high school. My teachers usually reminded me of upcoming due dates, and we were never really given our assignments too far in advance. However, college is a different story! Your syllabus is the key to staying on top of your work, so having a planner is a crucial way to know when things are due. You might find when filling in your assignments that exams or papers overlap, and that’s why it can be so useful to plan and have time to make the proper accommodations.
- Let your family know what your schedule looks like
Last semester, my entire family transitioned to remote communication for work and school. I’m sure you can imagine how hectic that was, as many of you were likely in the same position. If you’re looking at a similar situation this fall, try to discuss your schedule with your family so that you’re not interrupted during important lectures or presentations. In the spring, I would put a post-it on my door that said “In class” so that my siblings or parents did not barge in (which they typically do!) I plan to do the same this semester. Making sure we give our full attention to our lectures is imperative so that we do not fall behind in our classes.
- Change your environment
I know from experience that being cooped up in my room all day is not ideal. Unfortunately, in my house, I really don’t have another place to work. Thus, I tried to leave my room as much as I could last semester so that I didn’t feel so dejected. Whether that means going for a walk or watching TV downstairs, I found it to be very important to try to change my environment so that I feel some sense of normalcy. This will also allow us to stay more focused for school, since we all know that if we could be on campus, we wouldn’t be staying up in our rooms all day! And if your state and local governments allow it, consider (safely) going to study somewhere outside of your house. I know my town’s library is open, so I plan to complete some assignments there. This all depends on what you are comfortable with, of course, since your safety is paramount.
- Take breaks
Sometimes, I get so invested in my assignments that I lose track of time. When I finally look at the clock, I immediately feel tired and wonder how I let myself work for that long. I learned that it’s crucial to allow yourself breaks when studying or completing your work. You will feel more refreshed after your break and you will also be able to tackle whatever task is at hand. During finals week last semester, I placed my phone out of arms reach and set a timer so that every hour it went off. I would give myself a 15-minute break at each hour. It helped me absorb more information than if I had just continued to read it straight through.
- Move your phone
The distractions of home life while also balancing being in class are hard enough. Don’t add extra stress by allowing yourself to constantly check your phone (and definitely don’t check it while in class!) It might be hard at first, but it will pay off. Normally, I put my phone on my nightstand, away from my desk where I work (and if I really need to get things done, I turn off getting texts through my laptop). That way, I don’t feel the urge to pick it up and browse social media when I am bored. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, especially during a long study session. Trust me though, you will feel so much better if you can get your work done before you relax! You’ll be able to fully give your full attention to your professors also, which means you can save yourself the time of relearning information later.
This upcoming fall semester will be difficult for students and professors alike. However, it’s important to remember that this an adjustment for everyone - and we all wish we could be on campus! To the best of your ability, try to stay as focused as you can so that you don’t feel overwhelmed when assignments are due. And of course, don’t forget to have a little fun too. This is still college!