A College Girl’s Guide to School During a Pandemic

Indy Maven intern and Butler senior Meghan Stratton offers tips and tricks for managing school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am so tired of the word unprecedented.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard every synonym in the book to describe this strange, hectic pandemic era we are living through. Toss attending college into that mix and it’s enough to make me break out in a stress rash. While everyone has been facing difficult challenges during the pandemic, college students have been handed an ever-changing set of rules that are, at the very least, confusing and anxiety-inducing.

Whether it be unclear COVID-19 communication from your university or learning how to stay awake for a Zoom lecture, attending school during this pandemic requires college students to embrace change at a rapid pace. In my case, Butler University went fully virtual in March, only to have the majority of students return to campus this fall. Learning to navigate both of these scenarios has frankly made me feel like I’ve been put through a washing machine.

But, this experience has left me with tips that have helped to navigate a new campus life—and who knows, they may help other students figure out routines—and let the rest of the world know what university life is like in a reimagined 2020. 

Create and stick to a new routine when going back to college.

I get it, quarantine had absolutely no structure, so magically turning back into a full-time college student will be difficult. Make a healthy routine that works best for your schedule and energy levels, and motivate yourself to stick to it.

I’ve found that waking up between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. makes me feel more productive throughout the day. Whether it be setting time aside to study or meal prepping on Sundays, set consistent routines that help you stay productive. Also, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s okay if you can’t stick to your routine every single day. We’re going through so many changes, so treat yourself with grace if you wake up at 11 a.m.

Stay connected with friends and family in whatever manner you’re most comfortable with.

If that means only virtual communication, that’s fine! Setting clear boundaries is essential to maintaining healthy relationships during the pandemic—and frankly, in general. I’m going to be honest, meeting new people at college right now is going to be difficult. Remember to be safe, be socially distanced, and be yourself. And please, for God’s sake don’t be the one to attend a frat party.

Set a consistent and clean study space to get school work done.

Find a table or desk that you’re comfortable and confident doing work at, and ONLY do work at it! Sometimes I find myself eating breakfast or FaceTiming at my desk, and then I start to compartmentalize that space as laid-back. It helps to dedicate a space that’s just for doing work so that your body knows to be in a productive mode while in that space. Science, I know

Realize that managing your time and energy is going to look different than it did at this time last year.

Whether you are more or less productive, try to recognize that your life has changed, and therefore so have your time management skills. Jumping into full-time college life may be a shock to the system, so make sure to listen to your gut when managing your energy. If you can, ease yourself back into the academic environment so you don’t feel like a deer in headlights during your first week of classes. This can look like watching some Ted Talks or reading a non-academic book to get your mind back in the swing of digesting information. Because I, for one, was not digesting any information besides Bravo television over quarantine—not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

Pay attention to your mental and physical health.

Acknowledge your feelings each day and act on them — listening to yourself and your body is absolutely crucial to staying healthy during this pandemic. Make sure to monitor your physical symptoms and know your resources in case you become exposed to the virus. Additionally, recognize that this pandemic and all the changes it has brought has probably affected your mental health.

There are mental health resources available and people who want to help you. For Butler specifically, Counseling and Consultation Services is a great place to start your search. If you start to feel constantly down, remember to prioritize yourself and your health over anything else.

Did I ever think I’d be writing about advice for my fellow students during a global pandemic? Not in a million years. But here we are. However, I know this list is not all-encompassing. If you have more tips to share, feel free to reach out to me at meghan@indymaven.com. We’ll all get through this together. 

Meghan is a senior Organizational Communication and Critical Media Communication major at Butler University. At Butler, she is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Butler Collegian student newspaper. She loves Indianapolis and lives for planning the next travel adventure. You can follow Meghan on Twitter @meghan_stratton

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