The world around us seems full of chaos and uncertainty right now. We have all been turned for a
flip and called to make immediate changes in our lives. College students across the nation have
been asked to move off campuses with little notice, putting families in major adjustment mode. So
many questions. So few answers. The two main common denominators, however, are health and
safety and academic success.
How can students navigate these unexpected changes and still end this semester with success?
10 ways to succeed at distance learning
Believe – Believe your university and professors want the best for you. They are issued new
guidelines and protocol that will ensure your academic success. No professor or college
administrator wants a community health crisis on campus. This is their worst nightmare. Redesigning class structure has not been easy for them, especially in the time frame they were
given. So one of the best things you can do as a student is to take your new online learning life
seriously so you can finish strongly.
Attend-Every day, show up to your computer in the same fashion that you would attend class in
person. Stay on top of and ahead of assignments and projects. Plan forwards for eight more weeks. Maintain your momentum by situating yourself in front of your lap top every day.
Momentum and motivation-Just because a change has occurred mid-semester does not mean you have to stop your flow. Adjust your rhythm and keep moving along in your classes. Interrupting
what you had going, panicking or stressing will only set you back as you try to finish the semester
with success. Incorporate inner motivation, self-discipline, and guide yourself with the will to
Self-regulate – Self-regulatory skills are a set of skills you practice that help you rebound, persist,
and recover. These are all skills that help you thrive in most life situations. To regulate yourself as a
college student who has been asked to shift gears mentally, academically and emotionally, first, be aware of how you think about the situation. Then, adjust your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help you adapt to your new temporary normal. Respond with grace, patience, and understanding. This was not a planned or intentional act – the spread of COVID-19.
Plan-If you have never planned before as a college student and you’ve managed to “wing it,” now is the time to execute your best planning faculties. Your days for the remainder of the semester will be designed differently because of the switch to online learning, so it is your responsibility to plan accordingly. The best mantra for this is: “work before play.”
Communicate-Communication skills are a must for the remainder of the school year. Most college students have taken at least one online course by the time sophomore year rolls around and know how critical it is to understand the class expectations: deadlines, dialogue and dates. The 3 Ds. In addition, pay close attention to peer communication when projects are involved.
Accountability -Everyone is in “survival mode,” simply trying to adjust to a national health crisis.
Life as you know it has leveled up to a temporary position where you are one hundred percent
responsible for your grades and completed assignments without the normal in person and in class
reminders. This is a change that will require your attention every day. Stay aware. Yes, things have
happened suddenly, but you can keep yourself accountable for eight more weeks. If you need a
checks and balance system, ask for help, reminders and encouragement.
Distractions-Changing your work environment will be stressful mainly because your rhythm was
interrupted. Now you must adjust to a new space and a new set of distractions. Your daily schedule will be different as you make new accommodations. Be aware of the things in your new workspace that will distract you – siblings, new family routine, pets, noises, more devices. It is critical to your success that you keep your mental space clear of distractions. Incorporate structure now.
Time Management-This is perhaps the most important skill to put into practice as you shift your
learning modality to online classes. If you are someone who relies on the structure of going to class and learn best audibly, you will be challenged. Pay attention to every minute of your day so your
work gets completed on time. Plan and accept that this is one component you have control of – how you most effectively use your time. Use a visible calendar, sticky notes, alarms, and white boards as reminders.
Mindful completion-Even with chaos around you, you have control of your situation and one
goal: to complete the semester. Your circle of influence, the things in life that you can control, will
help guide you out of undue stress. Acknowledge what you have control over and what you don’t
have control over, and be mindful of the importance of your health, safety, and success. Stay
mindfully aware of the reason you are in college in the first place, knowing that all things work out
when you are flexible, forgiving, and determined. You will complete this semester with ease when
you keep the big picture in mind.
As humans you are designed to respond to threats and COVID-19 is the current immediate threat. You can fight it or flight it. As a busy college student who wants nothing more than to see this thing
through, how you perceive and react to this threat will determine your level of stress and your
degree of success (an A or a D; a complete or an incomplete). The worse step you could take at this point in time is to panic and start thinking negative, self-sabotaging thoughts. This would be a
counterproductive response and would interfere with any momentum you had going prior to the
At the end of the day, your safety and health are paramount to your grades. Stay mindful of the big picture and keep the momentum going.
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Still navigating adulting her own two adult children, Lori Bender. MSW, CTP is in the business of helping college students learn how to manage stress and thrive through college. In the fifth year of operation, her business, Students Stress Less Coaching is all about partnering with students to design effective stress management plans. As for how Lori manages her own stress, well, you can find her loudly singing southern rock and pop music while doing most any activity out in nature…or simply birdwatching, planting, blogging and writing. Throw in a few candles, 5ks, and matcha tea drinks during the week, and her stress is untraceable. Join her on most social media platforms under the business name.