The college dream has always consisted of aesthetically pleasing dorm rooms, meet-cutes in giant lecture halls, and white claws shared under the pounding music of a midnight party. In 2021, it’s time for students to wake up from that dream.
Now, it’s getting out of bed in your childhood room 2 minutes before class, logging into the dreaded Zoom lecture, and crunching cereal while playing with virtual backgrounds. With so many visions shattered, it’s natural for youth to lose motivation to keep up with school. But there are ways to make online school as meaningful as possible, so stop scrolling through TikTok, buckle up (or login), and read these must-know tips for slaying a virtual school year.
- Have a morning routine.
While it’s tempting to take advantage of online lectures by sleeping in until the minute class begins, this will harm your ability to be prepared to learn. Time bleeds together when you stay home, so convince your body that there are set “school hours” and “home hours”. Wake up half an hour before class, get breakfast, and make sure you have everything you need for the day. Try dressing up! Changing out of your pyjamas and into a nice outfit—maybe even adding some mascara—will mentally switch you out of sleep mode.
- Divide & conquer space.
Dividing space is just as important as dividing time. People study more effectively when they are studying in a designated work area—that means your bed doesn’t count! Sit at your desk when you are taking class. You can even simulate a “library” by going to your dining table every time you study for a test. Think about the spaces you might have utilized if you were on a college campus, and designate various spots in your home to correspond to those spaces.
- Create structure.
With no built-in need to move your body, set time aside to hang out with people, or even wake up before noon, many students fall into a slump of not being able to separate one day from the next. To prevent this, create a schedule and stick to it. Even if a class is entirely recorded and self-paced, give yourself two to three evenings a week to work on that class. Different degrees of structure work best for different people, so spend some time figuring out how much flexibility is best for you.
- Take a class with your friends.
The isolation of online school doesn’t just impact students’ social lives—it also impacts their studies. Learning can be a highly social experience, and without peers to discuss the material with, classes can feel more difficult. To avoid isolation-induced depression and to retain a sense of learning together, it might be wise to take a class with your friends. This has the bonus effect of creating built-in time for you to stay in touch with people! That can make a huge difference in how well a friendship endures separation.
- Minimize distractions.
Everyone knows not to do it, but everyone does it anyway. Five Youtube tabs open during lecture, Instagram checks every five minutes. Well, as long as you’re still kind of listening to the lecture, right? Nope. Studies have shown time and time again that multitasking detracts from focus and productivity. Try to imagine you’re actually sitting in a lecture hall: put your phone somewhere you can’t see it, and don’t switch away from the Zoom screen. Another way to increase focus is to set device-free hours for yourself when you don’t have class, so your mind and body can recover from the long hours spent staring into a screen.
- Make connections.
Just because school was put online, doesn’t mean you can’t form new connections! The human element is one of the most important aspects of university life, so don’t give up on it. Attend virtual office hours, even if you don’t have any questions. Chat with the professor so they can put a face to your name and give you more individualized feedback. Proactively create study groups so you can struggle through the material together and hopefully make some new friends on the way. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be back on campus next year, getting lunch with those very classmates—and you’ll wonder how such relationships were formed in quarantine!
No college student, parent, nor professor expected this school year to look like this. But the pandemic is looking more like a war than a battle, and it’s important that young minds are prepared with the best strategies to fight. Adhesion to structure, connection to peers, and an environment that simulates regular school life will be your weapons. Trust them as you brave the next awkward Zoom discussion.