How to Survive & Thrive During a Virtual Semester

Whether you’ve experienced a completely virtual semester before 2020 or this is your first rodeo, there are a number of things you can do to keep your head on straight. Between the social, academic, and environmental differences created and thrown at millions of students this fall, it’s perfectly understandable that the majority of us could be better off right now. We must adapt to our new situation and take care of ourselves so that we can do so. To accomplish this, it makes sense that we should evaluate the areas of our lives that have changed.

  1. 1. Taking Care of Your Social Needs

    If you’re one of the many that stayed home for the semester, it can become harder to interact with the people you care about at school. In addition, many of those on campus are being asked to self-quarantine. However, humans are social creatures. They were not meant to be alone for long periods of time. How do we work with the guidelines we need to follow when they’re fighting against interactions we need?


    For one, consider scheduling weekly zoom meetings with your friends. It’s so easy to say “oh, we should Zoom soon!” and then have three weeks pass. Scheduling prevents this from happening. In addition, I find that when I’ve been alone for a long time, I get sad and don’t want to see anyone. Scheduling a meeting forces me to talk to people and I’m able to pull myself out of my mental rut.


    Another option is to take a look at what clubs at your school are offering virtual options for participation. I’ve found that a large number of organizations are doing their best to virtually gather and discuss their common interest. While joining a Zoom call full of strangers may seem intimidating, try to remember that any given organization exists because every member is passionate about the same topic. Or, you could send that Zoom link to a friend and attend the meeting together!


  2. 2. Succeeding Academically

    Besides missing our friends, we also have to make sure our GPA survives this pandemic. Not only are you being evaluated differently, but you’re also learning new material in an entirely unique way. Some classes are simply not meant to be digital, yet they’re being forced to do so. Even if classes can be transferred online easily, it’s not many people’s first choice and the workload can be hefty.


    One of the best things you can do for yourself is get a planner. However, everyone's a little different. Some people prefer making their own planners, some buy them, and some prefer digital editions. It’s important to find what works for you, and more importantly, what you’ll stick to! Regardless of what format you choose, make sure your planner has a place for assignments, and deadlines if you tend to forget them. Having your work laid out for you allows you to manage your time more efficiently and prevents you from forgetting assignments.


    To support this, planning ahead is important. Every Sunday evening, I plan my entire week out in my planner. I decide when I want to complete certain assignments, when I’m going to run certain errands, and when I need to be in Zoom meetings. Viewing school as a weekly schedule instead of a daily schedule leads to a better awareness of the events in your hectic life and discourages procrastination.


    Finally, take advantage of the fact that your travel time is now 0! Office hours are still being held, and now you can attend them from the comfort of your own room. It’s easy to pop in, ask your question, and then leave. Moreover, if you’re too scared to speak, the chat is always an option. Even if office hours aren’t for you, it’s now easier to schedule one on one appointments with advisors, professors, and tutors, for any reason. Your school is extending its hand to help you best it can, so reach out and grab it!


  3. 3. Environmental & Internal Struggles

    When the world around us is constantly changing, we need something that’s stable. Your environment has a huge effect on your mental health and success as a student. Make sure you have a space that you feel safe in and that you can call your own. Whether that’s an apartment, a dorm, or even a bedroom, make it your own. Add decorations, things that make you happy, and reminders of your end goals. Try to remove stressors. Having a space you can completely relax in is important for mental, emotional, and physical recovery.


    However, sometimes the chaos of the planet makes its way inside of our heads. And that’s okay. Again, we weren’t meant to live like this. Taking care of your mental health should be your first priority. If you notice you’re struggling, you should reach out for help. That could mean friends, family, or even a therapist. There’s no shame in being human. I promise I learned this one the hard way. Utilize your support system to create a strong foundation for your mental health. Without a foundation, you can’t have the scaffolding that makes up other responsibilities such as academics and social obligations.


The overall message is that surviving and thriving this semester is possible if you take care of yourself. That means mentally, physically, and emotionally. Create a comfortable environment, talk to your friends, plan out your workload, and be honest about how you’re feeling. Take advantage of the resources available to you and reach out when you need help. With careful maintenance and a will to survive, together we will make it through this semester. We will be okay.