Thanks to COVID-19, many university students are preparing for a semester like no other. Many universities will be conducting most or all of their classes with virtual learning —online.

Less than 25% of schools plan for full in-person classes this semester, and many students are terrified of what’s to come. Some schools, such as UNC Chapel Hill and Notre Dame, have already pivoted to online classes after being on campus for just a week. Many other schools will likely make the switch to be fully online in the coming weeks.

This past spring, half of my school’s last semester was online. Many of us struggled to maintain motivation and productivity. Now, my classmates and I have to complete an online semester in its entirety.

Admittedly, however, I found things a little easier due to my educational past. From first grade to high school graduation, I was homeschooled. I never went to a traditional school, and I taught myself from home and often without help.

During the pandemic, I readjusted myself to my old routine, and I completed the semester with the grades I wanted. I am fortunate to have that background to bolster me during these times, but not everyone has what I had. Not everyone is used to completing everything from home. In fact, I also falter with this.

Fortunately, there are some ways to combat these troubles and achieve your desired academic success. Here are some tips that have helped me over the years that might help you now.

“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail!”

Planning is the first step you should take for any semester, especially if you have work and extracurriculars. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have more time than usual due to the circumstances of being at home all the time, but you will eventually find as time goes on that this isn’t true.

As a homeschooler, I often found myself underestimating how much time I had. I often paid the price, rushing to complete my due assignments with minutes to spare. I started planning out my weeks by using a planner. These days, I use the calendar with my email to save paper. I soon found that I was able to anticipate events and complete assignments with more time to spare.

Plan everything you need to do during this semester, and as commitments come up log them into your schedule. Visualizing the time you have will push you to use it wisely.

Can’t avoid studying in your room? Try rearranging your furniture or decorating your walls

We often hear the advice that we should separate our work from our bedroom. The truth is that many of us don’t have that luxury. Many of us must live with parents, relatives, and roommates in an apartment or house this semester. In these cases, there’s not often room for this type of separation. We don’t have a library or other study spots to go to either.

As a homeschooler, I didn’t have this separation since I spent most of my time at home. Eventually, the fatigue would catch up to me and I would experience burnout. I found I could solve this problem by doing a little “remodeling,” so to say. By rearranging my furniture was and changing up my desks and decorations, the refreshed scenery refreshed my motivation.

I’ve done the same thing in preparation for the upcoming semester. There’s been moving, clearing, and reorganizing my desk. I’ve gone through my shelves to contain a new combination or collections of my books and belongings. I’ve also reorganized my closet with a more orderly system.

Give a look around your room. See if there’s anything you can tweak in preparation for the new academic year. Even the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.

Have objects nearby to remind you of why you’re doing this

An extension of the last tip, you may want to see if any of your objects reflect your visions of pre-pandemic college life. When you’re physically disconnected from your campus, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost purpose in your studies. However, bringing in the things that remind you of your purpose can raise your spirits and help you to focus.

Even during my homeschool days, I frequently lost the drive to do my work. However, I found by hanging up certain objects inspired me to keep learning and working toward my end goals. For me, these objects were pictures of ballet dancers, or even my assignments and transcripts (as nerdy as it sounds).

When I came back home from college, these objects were replaced with mementos of my university, such as pictures, postcards from my roommates, and gifts I’ve received. For you, these objects could be pennants or flags, posters, pins, anything else that’s meaningful.

Think of it as your yearly move-in to your dorm: take a look through your items meant for college and see what you can find. Put them on your walls or in a neat place where you can look at it and remind yourself why you’re doing all this work.

Pick up an exercise routine

I was homeschooled through college due to my hectic and packed dance schedule. I didn’t mind, as I had more opportunity and freedom to dance. My schedule allowed me to devote myself to my academics and to stay physically fit. I had the perfect balance of studying and exercise, and it helped me to succeed during my high school years.

However, exercise has been hard to do during the pandemic. I can take dance classes through Zoom, but I don’t have a lot of room in my house to exercise. However, I’ve made my modifications, and have looked at other options. I’ve been taking lots of walks and hikes in the nearby woods. I’ve also started to reexplore Pilates, which has helped me maintain my muscle function and strength.

You should try to make an effort to find something that works for you. Maybe it’s an online yoga or dance class. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a walk through your neighborhood or doing your own workout routine. Staying active won’t make the stresses of isolation go completely away, but it will ease them.

Keep connected with your classmates, clubs, and commitments

Due to my aforementioned situations, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to talk to other people outside my family. Furthermore, I didn’t get my first cellphone until I was almost 16, so I didn’t have the ability to stay connected with my friends until my late teens. As a result, I’ve treasured every interaction with every person I met because I didn’t have the opportunity to be as social as others when I was younger.

However, the pandemic has forced people to use what they can to remain connected with their friends, classmates, and colleagues. Right now, many student clubs and organizations are making plans to remain connected, such as having virtual hangouts and events.

Commit to your groups and keep your contact, especially if you’re taking a gap semester or gap year. It’s not just good for conversation, but your participation ensures that your favorite clubs will survive after the pandemic is over.

Stay healthy!

This is the most important thing! Everything that’s been mentioned so far can unravel and cease to be applicable if you don’t take the recommended health precautions to protect yourself from COVID-19.

This is especially important in situations where you live close enough to visit your college friends. While having a socially-distanced picnic or beach day is usually fine, if you don’t wear a mask or keep your distance, your chances of catching and transmitting the virus go up.

Catching the virus may impact your ability to succeed during the semester. Your school officials may be willing to work on a plan with you if you do get sick, but there are never any guarantees. Your best bet is to stay where you live as much as possible, just as has been recommended over and over. Being online makes that easy to do.

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