9 Tips for Success as College Goes Online

Tips include setting up your space, scheduling study time, planning meals, connecting with others, and engaging with professors.
Student using laptop

With some colleges opting for a virtual semester, many students will find themselves taking classes at home this year. Distance learning looks different than sitting in a college classroom or lecture hall surrounded by a sea of peers, and some students may find the virtual environment challenging. The tips below can help any college student stay motivated and organized throughout their time in a virtual environment. 

  1. Set up your space. Whether you're in your childhood bedroom, a friend's dining room table, or a campus apartment, establish a dedicated space where you can attend class and study. This can be hard if you're living in a small space with several other remote learners and workers, but if you can find some room at a table or desk with a comfortable chair, you're on your way.
  2. Get your equipment. You'll need a laptop or tablet on which to take your classes, and an outlet nearby to power up. If you're working near anyone else, you'll need a pair of headphones. Make sure you also have notebooks and pens to take notes, highlighters, and your textbooks.
  3. Schedule study time. Your class schedule will likely be determined for you, but set aside time each day to complete assignments and study for exams. Plan out your study hours in your phone's calendar to hold yourself accountable, and don't let yourself skip a session.
  4. Get outside. On a college campus you usually get a chance to breathe in fresh air when you walk from class to class. If you're doing college all in one place, you may never get outside. Make sure you take breaks to leave whatever building you're in and see the light of day. Stepping outside even for a few minutes can provide a quick recharge and help you clear your mind.
  5. Plan your meals. Without the ability to stop in to a dining hall or snack bar between classes, you'll have to prepare your meals in advance. Set some time aside each weekend to plan out what you'll eat for the week, buy groceries, and prepare what you can.
  6. Connect with others. Find other people in your classes, and set up time to study together virtually. You can make flash cards for each other before tests, discuss the most recent lecture, ask each other for clarity on something you didn't understand, and hold each other accountable to getting assignments in on time.
  7. Remove distractions. During class and dedicated study times, set your phone to silent, turn off the TV, and close the web browser that might tempt you to shop online or fall down the rabbit hole of internet news articles. All that will be waiting for you when it's time to take a break.
  8. Engage with your professors. It will be harder to get to know professors when you can't walk up at the end of class, but there's still an opportunity to communicate with them, and it's always a good idea to get to know the person who gives you your grade. Send an email to your professor at the beginning of the semester to introduce yourself, attend virtual office hours to get additional help, and email questions about the course material throughout the semester.
  9. Reward yourself. Every few hours of class or studying, make sure to give your brain a break and do something you enjoy. Grab a snack, do a workout, talk to a family member or friend, or take a quick cat nap.

College students are experiencing an evolving environment. Remember to be patient with yourself, and your college administrators and professors, as everyone figures out how to navigate the online college experience.